Teaching Disability Acceptance and Diversity - A Survival Kit


In Teach Your Children to Be Accepting of Disabilities, I wrote about the way our children learn from the adults around them. When we are truly inclusive in our daily lives, the children around us acquire this same skill comfortably and easily. In that same article, I shared ways that adults might reframe their own behavior to model inclusivity for children. Yet modeling does not replace the need to directly teach these skills.

In a post called “The "New and Improved" Digital Citizenship Survival Kit”, Craig Badura, PK-12 Technology Integration Specialist for Aurora Public Schools in Aurora, Nebraska, describes a terrific activity for teaching appropriate online behavior. 

 

And, of course, after bookmarking it and thinking about how I might weave in Jewish text to create a program for our post b’nei mitzvah students, my brain went to how this might be used to intentionally teach children to be accepting of disabilities and diversity. (As an aside, for those still using simulations to teach disability awareness, I urge you to rethink your position: Rethinking Disability Simulations)

 

Teaching Disability Acceptance and Diversity Survival Kit:

Toothpaste
Used for lessons on bullying, online behavior and more, a tube of toothpaste presents an outstanding visual image.  Have students squeeze a small amount of toothpaste out of their tube (or demonstrate for the class with one tube). Then instruct them to put it back into the tube (have students take turns trying with yours if you only have the one example). Kids will quickly realize that this is virtually impossible; and that’s the point. Our words or behaviors toward another person, once out there, are virtually impossible to take back.

Packet of Seeds
A seed packet is used to stress that what students are doing now will have an impact on their lives in the future. We want our students to think about the "seeds" that they are sowing as they interact with others in the world around them.  Will their behavior grow into a bigger problem? Or will they take the opportunity to grow a plant that will be a strong, positive representation of who they are?

Mirror
Every time you interact with someone; imagine a mirror attached to the other person. Are you behaving and speaking in a way that is consistent with the value of b’tzelem elohim (being created in God’s image?) If you looked in the mirror and saw a friend, a parent or another significant person in the reflection, would they approve of what you are doing or saying?

Sheet of Paper
This is possibly the most powerful item in the kit. Take a new sheet of paper and hand it to a student, instructing him/her to crumple it up into a ball. Have her throw it on the ground and stomp on it, then ask her to pick it up and unravel it in front of the class. Finally, direct her to apologize to the piece of paper for destroying it. Be prepared for some strange looks and laughter from the rest of the class. After the student apologizes to the piece of paper explain to the students that the piece of paper represents a person who has been embarrassed, harassed or even just consistently ignored because he/she has a disability. We can apologize all we want, but the emotional scars DON'T go away.

I’d love to hear from you! What would you add to the survival kit?

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