As many people know, April is Autism Awareness Month.  As a special education teacher at an elementary school, my co-worker and I set up a Disability Awareness Week last week at our school.  I work with children everyday with and without disabilities and they all have strengths and traits that make them unique and amazing. It was an amazing week with great discussions and love spread throughout our school.

Let’s be honest, so much of what we are presented with on a daily basis these days is negative.  It was great to have an opportunity to lift u positivity, teach compassion and spread a little disability awareness.  Each day, we had a theme to highlight love and acceptance for all children.  The goal for the week was to help enlighten teachers, and students about the different disabilities in our school and in the world around them and in turn, promote acceptance of all people for who they are and their strengths. Basically, we wanted to spread a little more disability awareness around our community.

It always amazes me to see how wonderful children can be!  It warmed my heart to see kids and staff members participating each day and learning new things about each other and our school community.  There were honest, open conversations which really seemed to lead to higher understanding.  We had several staff members share their stories about disabilities and struggles they overcome which seemed to really resonate with our students.  The whole week was full of love and in honor of that, I thought I would share a few facts with you about educational disabilities to expand your disability awareness.  Of course, all people are different so these may not be true of everyone you meet with a disability. This information is mainly about how different disabilities impact children in the classroom.

A Few Disability Facts

  • First and foremost, people with disabilities want to have fun, be loved and make friends just like all other children.
  • Children with disabilities may benefit from learning through a multi-sensory approach as well as repetition of concepts and directions.
  • Autism is a developmental disability that can significantly affect verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction.  Autism is generally evident before the age of three. Students with Autism may need more structure and explicit teaching to participate in group work.  Making inferences may be difficult for a student with Autism and they often need help reading social signs and body language. They often have great rote memory and can recall many facts about topics they are interested in.
  • A student with an Emotional Disability has a condition that exhibits one or more of the characteristics of an emotional disorder over a long period of time and to a marked degree that adversely affects the child’s educational performance.
  • A Speech or Language Impairment (SLI) is a communication disorder such as stuttering, impaired articulation a language impairment or a voice impairment that adversely impacts a child’s educational performance.  Students can receive services for speech, language or both.
  • The disability category of Other Health Impairment (OHI) is the presence of a chronic or acute health problem that adversely impacts a student’s educational performance.  This can include conditions such as ADHD, Diabetes, Epilepsy, Lead Poisoning, Tourette’s Syndrome, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or Down Syndrome.

Of course, there are many other facts about these disabilities, as well as other disabilities.  The most important thing to remember, when interacting with anyone is to see the able, not the label.  Don’t focus on what a person can’t do, rather focus on all the things they can do.  We all have things we can’t do, but we hope people will focus instead on the things we can do.  People with disabilities are the same.


Peace & Love,

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