What Kids Can Learn About Disabilities

My 7th grade students just finished the disability unit in English class. Every year I am amazed at how all the kids love to learn about disabilities. They are fascinated by it. I think part of that fascination stems from some deep fears they have (mostly subconscious fears, I think). So, we just open up the doors on the issue and shed the light on all sorts of topics that they have never been given the opportunity to talk about.

We show that everyone has weaknesses and many of us have disabilities, and that’s all right. We are all human, and disability is an essential part of our humanity that we learn to deal with as needed. In time, the fears go away and compassion takes its place.

Many of the students learn about disabilities that they have or that a family member or friend has. Most importantly, they learn about how to help those people with a deeper understanding, less fear, more empathy, and better tools for interacting with them.

The following awareness videos were made by 7th grade students with only an iPad and a limited amount of time. These kids had very little movie making experience before this, so don’t expect professional quality. I think you will enjoy their compassion and creativity. Each one is about 2 minutes long.

Cerebral Palsy Awareness Video

By Allison, 13

Down’s Syndrome Awareness Video

By Rachel, 13

Epilepsy Awareness Video

By Bridget, 13

Autism Awareness Video

By Lexie, 13

 

I wish more schools would teach about this much needed, rarely taught subject matter. Our students do a variety of academic activities:

  • Read a novel about a person with disabilities
  • Watch videos of people overcoming disabilities
  • Conduct academic research
  • Create a stack of research notecards
  • Create an awareness video

The knowledge and skills that they learn are valuable, but the deeper meaning-of-life lessons are priceless. Our students learn that:

  • Disability is a universal human experience. We all know people with disabilities, and many of us will live with a person with disabilities. In fact, most people are disabled at some point later in their lives.
  • Every person is fully human, no matter what he or she can and can’t do. Every person is has unique strengths and weaknesses, but we are all created equal.
  • People with disabilities want to be and deserve to be treated normally. The Golden Rule applies: Treat people with disabilities they way you would want to be treated – as normally as possible – not as a leper or as a superhero.
  • Awareness is important. Sometimes people just need a little more knowledge and understanding of a disability in order to be a lot more helpful.

Parents, every chance you get, teach your kids about disabilities. Don’t shy away from it. Talk with your friends and family members about it. Let your kids learn early and often, so they can grow up to be compassionate friends and helpers of people with disabilities.

 

Author: Andy Kerckhoff

I'm a husband, father, teacher. I'm doing my best, wishing I could do better, and trying to help others to effectively lead kids through early adolescence.

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