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Lesson III: What is a Disability?

written by: Marlene Gundlach • edited by: Benjamin Sell • updated: 9/11/2012

A lesson to help young students understand the meaning of the word disability and how disabilities occur.

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    Objective

    Introducing the term disability to young children can help them understand that disabilities can result from an accident or illness.

    Introduction

    A disability is something that makes walking, talking, hearing, seeing, or touching more difficult for some people. Many people with disabilities live in your town, go to your church, and go to your school. Some examples of disabilities include:

    • a grandmother who wears glasses
    • a father who cannot see
    • a boy who cannot hear
    • an adult who walks with crutches or a cane

    A person with a disability is not a bad person and their disability is not contagious. What they have is not going to spread to you or those around them.

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    Activities

    1. Start a discussion with the following questions: "Do you know anyone who cannot use all of their body parts?" (Students may recognize more readily those in a wheelchair or another type of device that helps someone walk) "How are the similar to you?" "What CAN they do?"
    2. Discuss disabilities in more detail. Some discussion starters: "What does 'blind' mean to you?" "What does 'deaf' mean to you?" "Is blindness/deafness always a disability?" "Can you always tell if a person has a physical disability?" "Is it always obvious?"
    3. Have students draw a person of someone who wears glasses, uses crutches, or sits in a wheelchair. Have some of the students share their pictures and explain what tasks may be difficult for the person in their picture.
    4. Gather some pairs of earmuffs and have students take turns wearing them. Play some music that your class is familiar with. Ask them to try and listen to the music and describe what they hear/don't hear. Have a class discussion after everyone has had a turn about what it would be like to not have clear hearing.
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    Books for Sharing with the Class

    1. I Have Sister - My Sister is Deaf by Jeanne Whitehouse Peterson and Deborah Kogan Ray (362.42 P485i)
    2. The Berenstain Bears and the Wheelchair Commando by Stan and Jan Berenstain (Fiction: Berenstain)
    3. A Show of Hands by Mary Beth Sullivan and Linda Bourke (419.7 S951s)
    4. Some Kids are Deaf by Lola Schaefer (362.42 S294s)
    5. Being Deaf by Linda O'Neil (362.42083 O58b)
    6. Susan Laughs by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross (Picture Book Willis)