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Understanding Kids
Who Are Different:
Activities for Teaching
About Disabilities


April is Special-Education Month. In the classroom, of course, every month is special-education month -- and every day is a day when special students need to be recognized, appreciated, and understood. This week, Education World brings you some of the best on-line resources for teaching students about the special needs -- and unique strengths -- of people with disabilities.

Editor's note: Be sure to see this week's CURRICULUM story, Teaching Special Kids: Online Resources for Teachers, to learn about on-line activities, lesson plans, and resources for teaching students who have disabilities.

Kids Who Are Different
Here's to the kids who are different,
The kids who don't always get A's,
The kids who have ears twice the size of their peers',
And noses that go on for days . . .

Here's to the kids who are different,
The kids they call crazy or dumb,
The kids who don't fit, with the guts and the grit,
Who dance to a different drum . . .

Here's to the kids who are different,
The kids with the mischievous streak,
For when they have grown, as history's shown,
It's their difference that makes them unique.

Copyright (c) 1982 by Digby Wolfe.
Do not duplicate without permission of the author.

As teachers, we know that all kids are different -- and all kids are special. But some kids are special in ways that present them and their families, friends, and teachers with more difficult challenges. The sites below can help you introduce your students to information and activities that will enhance understanding of and tolerance for kids with all kinds of special needs.



It's often difficult to find sites on disabilities that are written for students. Yet an understanding and acceptance of people with disabilities is an essential characteristic of a good citizen and an essential component of a good education. The sites below provide information to help all students understand what it's like to deal with a disability. Whether the information directly affects your students or not, the sites are sure to increase their understanding of disabilities and their acceptance of the people who live with them.

Encourage your students to begin their on-line exploration of disabilities at Just Because We Have a DisAbility Doesn't Mean We BYTE. This 1997 ThinkQuest entry provides an introduction to a number of common disabilities, both visible and invisible, with the intent of eliminating fear, prejudice, and intolerance of people who are different. Kids, the authors say, can make the world a better place -- if they only understand. The site contains sections on vision, hearing, and mobility problems; learning disabilities; eating disorders; respiratory diseases; and more. The information is simply and clearly written, and the discussions include lots of personal insights. The colorful graphics, animations, and simulations are sure to entertain as well as educate. And if your students have forgotten or have never heard of the "Macarena," they can listen to it here. (Although I'm not sure why they would want to!)

Band-Aides and Blackboards: When Chronic Illness ... or Some Other Medical Problem ... Goes to School, an informational site about chronic medical conditions, provides stories, poems, tips, and coping strategies for children with chronic illnesses, as well as information and insights for their families, friends, and classmates. Maintained by an assistant professor of nursing, this colorful and appealing site includes factual information about scoliosis, cerebral palsy, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, cystic fibrosis, and many other chronic and acute diseases and disorders. But more importantly, it presents the perspectives of children, teens, and adults who live with chronic illnesses -- and all students will benefit from reading about such topics as teasing, hospital stays, daydreams, and bad days.




Many of the following sites provide information about diseases and disabilities, but most importantly, they include activities that can be used to promote interaction and understanding between students with disabilities and their classmates.


Of course, not all disabilities are obvious. Probably the most common challenges your students face, or need to understand, are caused by hidden learning disabilities.

Probably the best-known and most widely referenced Web site on learning disabilities for students is Kid Zone. This site includes Listen Up, a student's guide to the Individualized Educational Program; Speak Up, tips on dealing with and compensating for LD-related problems; Read Up, a list of books about LD and kids with LD; and Interact Up, an activity page where students can take a quiz to learn about celebrities with learning disabilities and print a page to show other people what it's like to have a learning disability. Kid Zone also includes a student art gallery and magazine where kids can submit their own work.

Additional site that help students understand learning disabilities:

  • A Classic provides support, encouragement, and links for students with ADD.




Finally, you may want to encourage your older students to complete the Disabilities/Probability Interdisciplinary Project developed at Frisbie Middle School in Rialto, California. The interdisciplinary project, appropriate for middle- and high-school students, helps students learn about people with disabilities while they participate in a variety of lessons and activities that supplement and enhance the entire curriculum. In language arts, students research and report on a variety of disabilities and learn about famous people who have overcome those disabilities. In mathematics, they study the incidences of various kinds of disabilities and develop a game based on probability. In social studies, they study how various cultures treat people with disabilities. And in technology, they conduct Internet research and create multimedia presentations. This is one of the best disability awareness sites on the Web, and it can be used either to wrap up a unit on disabilities or as an entire unit by itself. Even if you teach younger students, you'll find lots of ideas and inspiration at this site.

In life, of course, a lack of understanding, tolerance, empathy, and friendship may be the greatest disability of all. The sites mentioned here can help your students overcome any disability.

Article by Linda Starr
Education World®
Copyright © 2005 Education World



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