Teaching Inclusion and Empathy
Posted Sep 12, 2020 by Jacquie Robison
September is back-to-school time and many classrooms have shifted to a distance learning model. This still provides opportunities to talk to students about inclusion and empathy, which are core to the WAWOS mission. We believe in embracing difference and seeing the beauty in uniqueness.
Engaging in conversation is the first step. Starfish Therapies founder and WAWOS Board Member Stacy Menz, created this short video a few years ago about physical therapy — you may recognize a young Sofia as one of the participants in the production!
If you’re an educator, It's a terrific tool to start a discussion with your students, and as parents, it’s a great way to talk to your kids about differences.
Some of my thoughts for reflection and discussion after watching the video:
-Wow. There are a wide range of differences among these kids (there is a saying ‘when you meet one person with Cerebral Palsy, you’ve only met one person with CP!’) The same is true of Downs Syndrome and a myriad other developmental disabilities. These kids are individuals first and have a diagnosis second (or third!) Our girl says ‘Cerebral Palsy is the least interesting thing about me’.
-Challenge yourself to see the hard work these kids are doing to try and achieve a motor skill (ie: jumping) that came easily to you. In my experience, when fully able kids shift their lens a little, they become much more empathetic and encouraging of children with a physical difference.
-How does it feel to watch these kids? How would you feel to be in a room with them? It’s completely natural for people to reply ‘uncomfortable’ or ‘I wouldn’t know what to say’. I believe raising strong, confident and thoughtful children means having them sit with feelings that are new and uncertain. Ask them to imagine they are one of those kids. It’s a powerful exercise!
-Lead an exercise with the students/your kids and have them look at their environment, whether at home or in their neighborhood. Is the area accessible for everyone? What are some changes they can think of to create a world that is available and accessible to everyone?
**Quick clarifying note about Sofia's answer to ‘what is CP?’ It does make it difficult for your muscles to move, but it’s actually a neurological condition. So, there’s nothing wrong with the muscle, but rather the signal from the brain to the muscle is jumbled or not connected. The result is that it makes it difficult to move, or the movements are jerky and spastic.**