For a decade, Becky-David Elementary has been participating in and celebrating the “rainbow of abilities” present within its school community, as well as the Francis Howell School District (FHSD) Community, during their Abilities Awareness Week. Staff and students put on several events and celebrations, and invited guests to speak about the abilities they had to overcome. It’s a celebration of life as most of us don’t know it. And with a little bit of added awareness, the week of activities gives attendees a better understanding of disabilities, and how we can help.
One of the week’s organizers, kindergarten teacher Sara Stark said, “It is important to host this event so that all students, especially the young ones, see that even though someone may be a little different than us we are all really the same.”
During the week of Sept. 26-30, students were encouraged to wear different colors each day to represent different disabilities and to honor those who overcome the challenges related to their disability. All three Becky-David administrators read books to the students, stories that included some variety of disability. Connecting the students to these characters helped them learn more about how they persevere through adversity. Each student also participated in a hearing-loss simulation with their classroom teacher, which adhered to Grade Level Expectations and the District curriculum. In Music classes, students learned about a Deaf musician/composer. P.E. classes had K-2 students maneuver through obstacles in wheelchairs without the use of an arm/hand, or without the use of sight. Art classes joined in as well, learning about the famous artists who overcame a variety of differing abilities to master their respective art. Vacation Station students participated in similar activities, as well, playing games to replicate some of the different abilities that others experience.
Guest speakers hosted assemblies at Becky-David during the week to give further perspective.
* Kindergarteners visited with second grade teacher Angie Ward, her daughter uses a service dog, named Fiesta, and she explained how Fiesta helps her daughter get through her day.
* First graders welcomed Esther Murray, a Deaf woman from St. Charles, who brought in assistive technology to model for the students how she can perform tasks such as using the telephone.
* Second graders hosted Andrew Tollefson, a student at Francis Howell North High School, who shared how he, a wheelchair-bound student, communicates with the help of a technological device.
* Third graders listened to Joanna Jones, a mother who lives the daily challenges of raising a son with Downs Syndrome.
* Fourth graders invited Kelly Behlman, who shared information on DASA, the Disabled Athlete Sports Association.
Finally, the fifth graders welcomed Madelyn Hubbs (click here to read the story about her past visit.) Hubbs is only a junior in high school, but has been speaking to students for years. Born without a left arm, she is a Shriner’s Ambassador and speaks to raise awareness of her challenges, but more importantly how she doesn’t let her limitations hold her back. She shared how she performs daily tasks of childhood with only one hand and arm, such as putting on her shoes and braiding her hair. But she also showed that her limitations are just a word – that she can juggle, use a bow and arrow, and jump rope. Hubbs also talked about dos and don’ts for kids when they’re around those whom might be a little different from us. Click here to see a picture gallery of her demonstrations.
Hubbs mentioned if she had her left hand, she’d love to experience what it feels like to clap her hands and other feelings she’ll never have. But she also said that she wouldn’t have it any other way, that she loves her life the way it is – because she has the opportunity to talk with kids about such an important topic. She said if kids took one lesson away from her talk, it is understanding. “Everyone is different,” Hubbs said, “and it’s OK to be different in our own unique ways. We shouldn’t bully each other for these differences.”
And that can only be accomplished through awareness.