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From my experience in working with the regular ed. students about Disability Awareness, I have gotten the best results when I teach the children that they really aren’t much different than the special needs kids.  I start with a short opening with each class asking questions to get them engaged. Then I have each age group do different “challenges” that puts them in the position to feel empathy instead of sympathy. If you take out the fear of the unknown, they are more likely approach someone with a disability and start a conversation. Depending on the age group of children will determine the level of activities.  It is best to work with one class at a time (large assembly types sessions don’t really get the full point across as you don’t have time for ALL students to participate). 

Depending on the activity, you can divide the calls in to small groups of 4 or buddy up in groups of 2.

 For the pre K- 2nd grade kids you will need to do the activities in larger groups unless you can get more than one wheelchair and more than one set of arm and leg immobilizers

 Pre K-2nd grade

 Start the session talking about what is the same about people.  What is different about people.  How everyone wants to have friends and how no one wants to feel left out. Everyone has feeling. Plan, simple exercises for the children that are age appropriate.


 1.  Borrow a manual wheelchair.  Have the child start on one side of the room, have them cross the room to retrieve a book off a bookshelf by manually propelling themselves.  Make sure there are toys scattered on the floor for obstacles and the books are just within reach.

 2.   Place arm immobilizers on each child’s arm and have them build a tower with blocks.

 3.  Place leg immobilizers  and have them walk with arm crutches.

 4.  Get a pair of glasses, smear the lens with Vaseline and cover with plastic wrap.  Have child look at picture book or “read” to you.

 3rd-12th Grades

 Start session again with what is the same and what is different.  You can also include a discussion on what is discrimination.  Have the kids give you different examples of what it means. For the 5th grade and older kids, discuss how people with disabilities want to belong to a group of friends also, hang out at break and lunch time, go to sleep over’s, dance’s and after school activities.  You can expand that they too want to be “cool”,  “accepted” and worry about the same things they do.

Activity examples:

1.  Make a list of different sentences.  Some complicated, some silly, some simply. 

I.e. I need to use the bathroom.  I think I’m going to be sick.  Can I go to the movies with Susan this weekend?  Cut them into strips and place them in a bowl or hat. 

Have each child pick a sentence.  Have the child sit on a stool or chair in the front of the class or in small groups. 

Have child put a large gumball, jawbreaker or ring pop (something that will obstruct their tongue and make speaking difficult) 

Have them sit on their hands and say the sentence they drew out of the hat. 

Have the rest of the group try and figure out what they are saying.

 2.  Pair kids up with a buddy.  Blindfold one person and have help buddy guide walk blindfolded person around campus.

 3.  Blindfold students and have them make a PB&J sandwich.  Have all items in a cabinet as it would be in the kitchen.  Use plastic knifes.

 4.  Have students use a manual wheelchair, going in and out of classroom or bathroom, with younger kids out to the playground.

 5.  Have a student read a book.  At the same time pick 4 or 5 other students to talk quietly at the same time really close to the student reading.  Have adult or teacher leaning over student firing off questions really fast, (depending on the class you can also have one student lightly touching the arms, neck and side of face of student reading).  All AT THE SAME TIME. 

This gives the kids an idea of what it’s like for kids with Aspergers or sensory issues.   After a few minutes, ask the student that is reading the book tell the class what they just read.

If you have access to a canine companion, bring a student that uses a wheelchair and canine companion and show students how they work together as a team.

 Depending on the size of the class will determine the time needed.  After everyone that wants to, has participated, have a Q&A session, this can last for 30-60 minutes because the questions flood out after the first person asks one. After they have participated in the exercises, they have a better idea of what it’s like to have a disability and they aren’t really that Different.  They do the same things in a different way. 

Of course add any activity that you feel will benefit the kids.

You may be able to find a disability or peer awareness program in you area. Here are some additional resources for you.

All information on this page are the exclusive property of  ©The Cerebral Palsy Network and Vicki Hendrickson, author. If you would like to use this outline to share with your schools please click here.


 The Cerebral Palsy Network©1997/2014. All graphics are the exclusive property of CPN, unless otherwise indicated. Contact Cerebral Palsy Network   for further information. Last updated 04/23/14