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Special School District of St. Louis County
 
Students Learn By Participating in Inclusive Schools Week Activities

Imagine this:  A teacher gives students foam earplugs to wear and then plays “white noise” from a radio, TV or fan. Then the teacher reads a newspaper article or book in a rapid, soft voice, or in a mumbling monotone and pauses in odd places. Afterwards, she asks the students five questions about the context of what she read.

The lesson is complete when the students remove the earplugs, turn off the white noise and discuss how it feels to not be able to hear clearly.

This is just one activity that students may experience as part of Inclusive Schools Week (ISW), an annual event held this year Dec. 2-6.

ISW provides an opportunity for students to become familiar with the challenges of specific disabilities, as well as the importance of inclusion. 

According to Michelle Levi Perez, administrator for SSD's Parent Education and Diversity Awareness program, “Students learn best about inclusion as a teacher models and provides opportunities for all students to be included. Teachers create inclusive settings as they embrace differences and allow all students to feel a sense of belonging, and everyone is a contributor to the class.”

During Inclusive Schools Week, students at Barrington Elementary in the Hazelwood School District receive a “Disability Awareness Activity Packet.” The packet includes activities to illustrate the challenges that students with disabilities may face.

For example, to illustrate the challenges of a student who has a communication disorder, a teacher may write a simple sentence on a sheet of paper. The teacher then shows it to one student and that student must let the rest of the class know the sentence without writing, speaking or using any letters of the alphabet.

The class then discusses the communication difficulties and how others can help them communicate.

At Barrington, posters highlight the theme "Disabled Means Differently Abled." Other posters show famous people who have disabilities so that students and staff gain awareness that many successful people have disabilities.

At Hazelwood East High School, students will host an ISW carnival. The awareness event consists of four tables staffed by students – one with a disability and one without. Students play games and can win prizes. 

“Our theater teacher will be doing a play that will include students with disabilities,” says SSD area coordinator Brenda Brown. “And one of our teachers will be posting informational documents around the building with statistics and facts about disabilities. Teachers are also planning activities for academic mentoring, and that will be a school-wide activity.”

Also at Hazelwood East, videos will play during lunch on subjects such as “Famous Americans with Disabilities” and “Ways to Make Your High School More Inclusive.”

The school also will emphasize the importance of using people-first language, which puts the person first, and then describes the disability. For example, a student has a learning disability, he is not a learning disabled student.

Sponsored by the Inclusive Schools Network, ISW was created to commemorate the progress that schools have made in providing a quality education to an increasingly diverse student population.  

For more information, visit the Inclusive School Network website at www.inclusiveschools.org.

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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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