One of my favorite things about being a Student Support Teacher is bringing awareness to all students about those with varying abilities. I truly believe that presenting kids with facts and personal stories about my work at Camp Easter Seal, Astonished, Best Buddies, or Campus for All is the first step to a more inclusive society. Simply put: kids (and adults, too) cannot be inclusive if they are not accepting. They cannot be accepting if they are not tolerant. They cannot be tolerant if they do not understand. They cannot understand if they are not aware! And I couldn’t be more happy that it is part of my role to bring awareness to students so that one day they can also share an inclusive mindset! Attached are some resources I have used to help bring awareness to students in Grades 3 to 12 about varying abilities. I urge you to use these inclusive resources (or others) and share your stories with your students!
The first link I adapted into a presentation with personal pictures of my experiences in the world for high school students. I found that many students were using the r-word in a non-malicious way. They had never really been told why it is a terrible word to use and I think this is a truth for many people, including adults. You cannot really blame people unless they are made aware; that was my mission! For the most part, it has worked. I still may hear the r-word from time to time but it is often followed by an “I’m sorry” or “I should have used the word ‘stupid.'” I know that even the more challenging kids were touched by my presentation; you could have heard a pin drop and their mouths were on the floor! To me that is a start and I will continue to work on it, one day at a time. I believe that people cannot “un-know” something; they may be able to ignore it but it will always be in the back of their minds. I urge you to fill your students’ minds with positive thoughts, too!
The second link connects you to the book Ian’s Walk: A Story About Autismthat I read to the Grades 3/4 class. I found it helpful for students to complete a multiple intelligences survey about themselves first. That way we could discuss how everyone is a bit different and smart in their own way. We also talked about how we are all unique or a bit weird at times. Students were very responsive to this piece and it was nice to bring awareness at such a young age!
In summary, just go out and do it! It may seem like the road to inclusion is a long hike but take it one step at a time and eventually positive change will occur!
Back on Autism Awareness Day, Katie Tackettwrote a post on Thought Catalog to share her feelings and raise awareness of what it’s like to parent Aubrey, her three-year-old daughter who has severe autism:
How can we expect that snotty woman behind us in line at the grocery store to know that our daughter is not just an out-of-control three-year-old, and it’s also not us just being ineffective parents? The truth is, we can’t expect people to take autism seriously unless they know what it’s like to love someone with severe autism or be someone with severe autism.
I love when a pop song is “teachable” and think we should take any opportunity to draw upon sources that our students engage with on a regular basis. This particular song deals with bullying and could introduce an anti-bullying unit or discussion.
From a teacher perspective, this video is a reminder that our jobs are a lot more than what is on the curriculum document. Students learn more from how they are taught then what they are taught. They learn more about how they are talked to than what the talk is about. This video is also a reminder that students have lives beyond our four walls and things may be going on that we are unaware of. I hope to build the relationships with my students where they feel like they can come talk to me. Realistically those who really need the help need us to come to them, not the other way around. As educators we need to take the time to ask students about their lives, value their interests, strengths and contributions and be that listening ear.
It is also important to note that an “outcast” could be anyone: the football player, the cheerleader, the band member, the kid with his hood up, etc. Anyone can feel invisible and everyone has their own issues, regardless of outer appearance or interests. Some of the coolest people I have met do not fit in the generic box that society forces people into; too often, these differences are not valued until too late.
Students cannot learn unless they feel safe and it is our job to create that community of learners where everyone is accepted, differences are valued and no one feels invisible! “Crowded hallways” should not have to be “the loneliest places” and students deserve to know that it will get better because we are there to make sure it will!
Students with disabilities learn best when they are educated with other disabled students.
I believe that students with disabilities should be educated in regular classrooms as long as it doesn’t take attention away from other students?
Students with disabilities should attend regular classrooms in regular schools as long as the cost is reasonable, and it doesn’t take resources away from the regular students.
The student with a disability is welcome within my classroom as long as the student comes with a teacher assistant.
Educating students with disabilities in the regular classroom is a good idea, provided that the student is not too disabled?
If students with disabilities are disruptive or distracting, they should be placed in alternate classes or schools.
Students with disabilities need to be with other students with disabilities, so that they can form friendships with other students just like them.
The best way to educate students with disabilities is to provide special classes for academic areas, and include them in regular classes like physical education and art.
Students with disabilities are happiest in special classes where they won’t get picked on or bullied.
But would people say the same things if we replaced the blanks with First Nations, female, LGBTQ students? IF IT IS NOT APPROPRIATE TO SAY THESE STATEMENTS AND MANY MORE FOR ONE MARGINALIZED GROUPS, THEN IT IS NOT OKAY TO SAY THESE STATEMENTS AT ALL!
students learn best when they are educated with other students.
I believe that students should be educated in regular classrooms as long as it doesn’t take attention away from other students?
students should attend regular classrooms in regular schools as long as the cost is reasonable, and it doesn’t take resources away from the regular students.
The student is welcome within my classroom as long as the student comes with a teacher assistant.
Educating students in the regular classroom is a good idea, provided that the student is not too ?
If students are disruptive or distracting, they should be placed in alternate classes or schools.
students need to be with other students, so that they can form friendships with other students just like them.
The best way to educate students is to provide special classes for academic areas, and include them in regular classes like physical education and art.
students are happiest in special classes where they won’t get picked on or bullied.