Henderson DisABILITIES Awareness Week

Posted on 12/06/2017
Henderson DisABILITIES Awareness Week

Every year, Henderson Elementary doesn’t just tell students about people with disabilities, they actually help them understand with first-hand experiences. The main lesson is simple – we all have abilities and disabilities, but we’re all people. Accordingly, that’s also how we should treat others, like people. In fact, at Henderson Elementary, the term is “DisABILITY,” putting an emphasis on the “ability” within us all. With guest speakers and a day of unique PE classes, Henderson’s DisABILITIES Awareness Week taught students an important lesson about empathy.

Martha Hefner, Henderson’s Occupational Therapist, is at the head of this event. “Henderson offers DisABILITY Awareness,” she said, “to educate our students about disabilities and to increase their awareness that ALL people have ABILITIES. We also need to remind them that everyone has feelings, just like them, and wants to be treated the way they like to be treated.”

The speakers this year covered topics including support dogs, Down Syndrome, blind culture, physical impairment, amputees, and dwarfism. “Each grade level also had a presenter,” Hefner said, “so that the students can hear how people with disabilities live, work, and play. That way, by the time a student leaves Henderson, they have been exposed to at least six different disabilities.”

One of the guest speakers, Amy Dohr, is a morning facilitator for Henderson’s Vacation Station. Dohr has given talks about her life with dwarfism at multiple schools, and it was her second year presenting for Henderson’s awareness week. “I started presenting at Henderson last year when one of my friends with dwarfism started kindergarten here,” Dohr said, and her friend was excited to join her in front of the kids. “I was thrilled that he wanted to help me this year.”

Dohr was delighted to help the kids learn about dwarfism, something many kids may never have seen before. “I hope the kids learned that people with dwarfism can do pretty much everything they can do,” she said, “just maybe in a different way.” The question and answer session was especially interesting, even though the kids didn’t exactly stick to those directly related to dwarfism. “My favorite questions, in general, are ones like ‘Do you have a dog?’ or ‘What's your favorite...?’” Dohr loves those questions, though. “That shows me they want to know about me as a person, they don't just see me as a little person.”

“In addition to the speakers, PE classes had an interesting element added to their sessions, where students are taught about various disabilities and etiquette,” said Hefner. “Kindergarten and first grade students move through stations which simulate disabilities so they get to experience how someone with those disabilities may feel. Students second through fifth grade participate in a PE activity with a disability so they can see how it might feel to have a disability.”

Watch this video to see these PE activities in action.

The students loved hearing from Dohr and the other presenters, who in turn relished the chance to help others be more aware of disabilities. Dohr said, “I hope to continue being asked to present at Henderson, but I'd love the opportunity to present at any of the other FHSD schools. In the years I've presented, I've seen a positive difference in the schools and communities that have these disability awareness weeks.”

It’s a lesson we all can learn. Take it from those who have lived it. “If someone looks different than you,” Dohr said, “be kind. Calling names and laughing at someone can hurt them. Also, like my friend said, ‘if we were all the same, it would be boring.’”

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