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School Stresses the Importance of Learning about Differently-Abled Children

"It’s so important for these mainstreamed kids to understand what their classmates are going through on a daily basis," Traci Tulipano, mother of an Autistic student.

Students at had to spread butter on a piece of bread using their non-dominant hands. Others communicated using only sign language.

Another group of students had to complete mazes, but they had to do it backwards using a mirror.

The activities were part of Disability Awareness Day at the school. The activities were designed to teach what special education students, and students with Individualized Education Programs, (IEP) must go through on a daily basis. They learned what it was like to have a speech, vision, or movement impairment.

“It’s so important for these mainstreamed kids to understand what their classmates are going through on a daily basis,” said Traci Tulipano, a parent who helped organize the event. Tulipano’s 9-year-old son Devin is Autistic. “They need to know how they feel and what they struggle with on a daily basis because you don’t realize how these kids live until they are in their shoes.”

Some children struggled to complete the tasks they were given. Students could not move the maze they were trying to solve, they had to move the mirror while they navigated through one. Right-handed students had a difficult time spreading the butter with their left hands not only because their brains are wired to be right-handed individuals.

Autistic children may have trouble communicating and often have difficulties forming relationships with others.

“Some of the things that are easy for you to do are sometimes very hard for people with Autism,” Tulipano said.

Some disabled children are taught in separate classrooms by different teachers, while others are taught along side students without IEPs. Some also receive special one-on-one instruction time.

“The kids with IEPs can draw attention to themselves because, for some of them, it is difficult for them to be in certain settings with certain things happening around them,” Tulipano. “What’s important is that these children not be looked upon has being any less important or special because they’re not.”

According to , 54 percent of Autistic students are not called by their friends outside of school. About half are not invited to social activities and 43 percent never see their friends outside of school.

“Even though someone is Autistic, they still have feelings and they still want friends,” Tulipano said. “They still want to be invited to birthday parties. It hurts when your child asks you ‘How come I don’t get invited to birthday parties?’”

School Principal Marion McGrath said that students should be taught at a young age about disabilities and how they affect others, especially other children.

“It’s very important to start making students aware that there are people out there who are different from them so they begin to develop a culture of respect,” McGrath said. “The more we teach out children about the differences in others, the more accepting they will be of those differences when they are older.”

When children do they learn. I think that it’s very important in kindergarten to start making students aware that there are students out there that are different from them, to being to being developing a culture of respect. The more we teach our children about differences, the more accepting they will be of differences.” 

Sue January 25, 2012 at 02:42 AM
Wonderful idea and job - I commend everyone involved!
Chris Traynor January 26, 2012 at 02:38 AM
This is a little program with the potential for a big payoff. These "class lessons" have real impact on our kids (far more than time devoted to penmanship & rote memorization of the "when" of invasions rather than the "why" of invasions). Perhaps we can begin a cultural conversation to one day do away with the now-negative classification known as "DISABLED." When we traded "handicapped" for "disabled" we did it with good intentions but with the Information Age, "disabled" took on a meaning society never intended Back in the day, "disabled" translated into "of somewhat less capacity" but in these days of feature-rich software programs, a DISABLED status indicates something that no longer functions - either intentionally or due to a defect (i.e. “I disabled the alarm feature" or "The network is disabled"). As for "DIFFERENTLY-ABLED", perhaps we can agree that "clumsy & incorrect" no matter how well-intentioned, remains clumsy & incorrect. I roll around in a wheelchair but in my heart, I've never felt "differently abled" because I was forced to use wheels on a titanium frame instead of the perfectly designed hips, thighs, knees, legs & feet that allowed me access anywhere I want to go. Not to sound archaic but the word best describing my physical state & honoring the loss my psyche tries to endure with a smile everyday is "HANDICAPPED." I know its difficult to understand but the truthfulness of it trumps any remnants of offense once attached to those 11 letters. Best, Chris

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