Friday, October 21, 2011

Dutch Fork Teacher Cadets Study Disabilities


Using materials from both the DF Health Occupations class and a grant from Family Connection of SC, DFHS Teacher Cadets spent a day this week experiencing what it would be like to have a disability. The purpose of the lesson was to increase understanding and build empathy for those who navigate through school with needs ranging from visual impairment to physical disabilities.

"It's really frustrating," said senior Meghan Kircher. "You don't realize how much you use your senses until they are taken away from you." Meghan was referring to the visual impairment experience which required that she wear goggles smeared with Vaseline and then perform two tasks - reading from a book and trying to locate a snack in the vending machine.

Austin Williams agreed. "Being in a wheelchair makes me feel like I'm disturbing everyone around me, but it increased my understanding of how tough it is on a day to day basis getting around our halls."

The area between the old and new part of the building was especially hard for students using the wheelchair and crutches. "That incline isn't hard at all when you're walking, but trying to go up in a wheelchair is hard," senior Ramel Brown explained. Coming back down poses its own problems.

"I feel like I'm going to fall forward," said Brown. "This is a lot harder than it looks!"

Students experienced hearing impairment through listening to a CD with muffled directions. They also had to use a mirror to write their name and draw through a maze. Other activities included mouth painting, sign language, and blind-folded activities.

"This definitely helps make the students more aware and more sensitive," said teacher Carol Jackson. "While they are doing the activities, they think it's fun, but later when they write their reflections, they realize just how difficult it would be live 24/7 with some of these disabilities."

Students will be taking their new sensitivities into the classroom in the spring when they do a two-month internship called "field experience."

"This is one of the activities they will always remember," Jackson said. "They become different people after spending just one class walking in someone else's shoes. In fact, I ran into a Cadet who graduated in 2011 recently at Applebee's. She told me she had just changed her major from nursing to special ed. I can't help but think that this activity in her senior year may have had something to do with that."

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