Disability Awareness Lessons- 3 tips for success

Photo of Wimble- A Seeing Eye Puppy in Training. Dog is wearing a green jacket and cocking its head to one side.

Perspective taking is powerful for children, and disability awareness lessons can be a great way to help children understand disabilities. It’s important when designing and choosing materials that we promote a positive view of disability, and that we stay away from stereotypes.

Keep it Simple

Although we might have a goal for children to be able to better understand their peer on the autism spectrum, or with Spina Bifida, complex disabilities and syndromes aren’t simple- and the particular experiences of people with these issues is varied and complex. For the purposes of a demonstration, it may be simpler to stick with things like ear plugs to talk about deafness and sensory differences, and blindfolds to talk about blindness.

Steer Clear of Stereotypes

If your activities could be perceived as making fun of someone- don’t do them. Disability Awareness is great- but make sure it’s respectful. If you aren’t sure, then ask members of your team- be sure to include people of different ages, and self advocates.

Keep it Positive

Rather than focus on things that are hard, frustrating, or that you can’t do, try focusing on how you can accommodate, and strengths of the experience.

If you are thinking about a “disability simulation” procede with caution. These kinds of activities may not build a sense of connection, and instead may promote division. Be sure to check out this article for suggestion, J. R. Thorpe wrote a nice piece in Bustle about this: https://www.bustle.com/p/disability-simulators-dont-work-but-there-are-other-ways-to-be-able-bodied-ally-75727 and Mary Johnson wrote a very helpful resource on the subject:

If you are thinking about a “disability simulation” procede with caution. These kinds of activities may not build a sense of connection, and instead may promote division. Be sure to check out this article for suggestion, J. R. Thorpe wrote a nice piece in Bustle about this: https://www.bustle.com/p/disability-simulators-dont-work-but-there-are-other-ways-to-be-able-bodied-ally-75727 and Mary Johnson wrote a very helpful resource on the subject with ideas about how to co-construct an experience with people with and without disabilities that builds relationships and perspective taking: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00ANUF42Q/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_d_asin_title_o00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

For examples of lessons for kids from preschool through elementary school , you can check out my lesson on Mark 10: 46-52 How Bartimaeus teaches us to follow Jesus. https://deborahwhuggins.files.wordpress.com/2022/01/sunday-october-24-2021-1.pdf&quot

Published by Deborah Huggins, MDiv, PhD

I'm blessed to serve as associate pastor of youth and children at Central Presbyterian church in Summit New Jersey where I get to support families as we find connection to God and our community. My doctorate is in Special education, with a focus in faith inclusion.

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