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Special School District of St. Louis County
 
StudentsWe’re more alike than we are different
We're more alike than we are different; that's always the theme of the "Ability Awareness Days" Kim Butz coordinates for two schools in the Lindbergh School District.

"I want the kids to hear that we all have different abilities, different gifts and strengths," said Butz, a parent volunteer. "Since I have a child with a disability, I really like to show the typically developing kids that we really are all the same, we have a lot of the same interests."

The past four years at Truman Elementary School, Butz has organized speakers with visible disabilities to make presentations to the third- and fourth-grade students. Children can explore what life is like in a wheelchair, how a Braille machine works and how some people talk using sign language. At Sperreng Middle School, she helps seventh-graders learn about non-visible disabilities, like Tourette syndrome, cerebral palsy and learning disabilities.

"I do think the students enjoy it," Butz said. "They get to learn something new and they get to learn about other kids."

Accessibility, being included and public perceptions are often the greatest challenges faced by children with disabilities and their families, said Judy Presberg, SSD’s administrative liaison for family services.

"We hear a lot from parents that when they're out, people stare, ask questions or assume they're not properly taking care of their children," Presberg said.

Fortunately, there are people like Butz who are working to raise consciousness about ability and diversity awareness. The SSD Family & Community Resource Center has a variety of resources to help families overcome and cope with these challenges. Parents can checkout or download materials to help them plan their own Ability Awareness Days, or simply to help in talking about their child's disability with family members, friends, teachers and people in the community. In addition, Presberg can help families connect with mentors and parent advisory councils in the region.

The best way to raise awareness about disabilities — and abilities — is provide kids with opportunities to build friendships and experiences with children with a variety of abilities, Butz said.

Butz's best advice to parents is to have high expectations. "Expect your child to be included in anything you want him to be included in," she said. Butz's son Geoff has Down syndrome, and in order to be included in mainstream classrooms and sports activities, she and her husband spend extra time helping Geoff with homework and teaching him basic sports skills.

To optimize a child's ability to participate, Presberg encourages parents to make sure in advance that an activity will be logistically accessible to their child, Presberg said.

"Kids with disabilities really can be included in anything as long as you have the right attitude and plan ahead," Presberg said.
Ability Awareness Resources
Books and multimedia materials on ability awareness (PDF)
(Available from the SSD Family & Community Resource Center)

Resource packet on ability awareness (news, brochures, handbooks and local agency lists)
(Available from the SSD Family & Community Resource Center)

SSD Family & Community Resource Center

SSD Parent Mentor Program
Contact Judy Presberg at 314.989.8438 or by e-mail at jpresberg@ssdmo.org.

SSD Parent Advisory Council (PAC)
 
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12110 Clayton Rd, Town & Country, MO 63131  /  314.989.8100  /  314.989.8552 – 711 (Missouri Relay)

Special School District of St. Louis County (SSD) is a leader in providing special education services to students with disabilities and also provides a wide range of career and technical education programs.
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