Last week was one of my favorites at my kid's elementary school. We do a program on Disability Awareness every year for a solid week for each grade. The kindergartners get one piece of the program on accepting differences and how we are all essentially the same and a little different. The older grades programming is focused on both hidden disabilities and physical disabilities. The kids get to use wheelchairs, meet people with service dogs, see plays and presentations on hidden disabilities, and get to touch and feel all the sensory toys and "talking" machines that kids with disabilities may use.
This year, I wanted to add in a component that is special to me, which is to put the "Ability" back into "Disability." I wanted to show all of the amazing things that kids with disabilities "CAN" do, not just an acceptance of what they can't. I brought in my daughter's three wheel adaptive bike, her walker, her canes, and her braces; so that the kids could see and play with all of them. The wonderful people at GLASA (Great Lakes Adaptive Sports) lent me a ton of other things to show and share with the kids. Track wheelchairs, Snow skis, sled hockey sleds and sports wheel chairs - all of which went room to room to show the kids. They were fascinated that kids with disabilities could participate in all of the things they do (skiing, basketball, hockey) and with just a bit of engineering and imagination, they can be just like any other kid.
My daughter was beaming with pride as the kids got to sit in her snow ski and try out her super cool bike. They had a host of questions, ranging from "how does she get dressed" to "how fast can she go down a ski hill."
I love GLASA and all of the people who are involved with kids like my little girl, who although she can't take a step on her own, has been able to try sports ad activities that most of her friends haven't had the opportunity to try. She can't wait for ski season and this year she wants to go more often and go much faster. I may be in trouble!
I think every school should have programming like ours does, and should introduce the typical kids to the fact that kids with disabilities are just like them. They are kids who like to have fun!
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