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Educating Children About Disabilities: Encouraging Inclusion And Acceptance

written by: Finn Orfano • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 9/11/2012

As more children with disabilities are being educated in general classrooms, the need to familiarize teachers and other students with information about certain disabilities has increased. Teaching kids about disabilities through classroom presentations or reading materials is a beneficial process.

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    Advantages Of Discussing Disabilities With Mainstreamed Students

    In previous decades, most children with disabilities were educated in a separate setting from that of their neurotypical peers. This situation is handled differently since the implementation of special education laws through IDEA, which allow disabled students to spend at least part of the school day in a general classroom. Because special education students often interact and attend classes with their mainstreamed classmates, many instructors and parents have begun teaching kids about disabilities in order to increase awareness and understanding of disorders such as autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and ADHD.

    The reasons for offering important information about disabilities to general education students can vary. Often, parents or teachers of a special needs child feel that openly discussing the effects of a disability will encourage students to understand why the child learns or behaves differently. By teaching kids about disabilities, adults can emphasize the need to include and accept those who are afflicted with a disorder, and can point out that bullying or ostracizing these children is hurtful. Some students may be frightened or unsure of how to communicate with a disabled peer, and classroom presentations or stories can address concerns or questions and help set minds at ease. Many mainstreamed students demonstrate compassion and kindness when they are fully aware that a classmate has a challenging disability.

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    Ideas For Classroom Presentations About Disabilities

    When educating children about physical, emotional, or behavioral disabilities, teachers and parents can either specifically include the special needs student in the presentation, or decide to approach the discussion in a more general manner if the child is uncomfortable about participating. The following methods are commonly used in disability education and are effective in promoting knowledge of a disorder:

    --Some educators prepare booklets or handouts that detail the basic facts of a certain disability and how a child's life is affected at home and at school. This information can include suggestions on how students can assist their classmates with disabilities throughout the school day.

    --Many fiction and non-fiction books about various disabilities are available through libraries and can be ordered online. Parents or teacher can read stories to the class that explain disabilities in an age-appropriate manner. Picture books are especially helpful for children in the lower elementary age group.

    --Question-and-answer sessions are beneficial in promoting two-way discussions of disabilities and for correcting any misinformation that exists in regard to a disorder. Disabled children who wish to answer their classmates' questions can offer a personal perspective on living with physical or emotional challenges.

    The process of teaching kids about disabilities can have a profound impact on the ways in which mainstreamed students interact with their special education peers. Those who organize presentations on disabilities may wish to address students through a school-wide assembly in order to foster a sense of support and acceptance across all grade levels.

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    Introducing All Disabilities--