Valley Central Middle School (VCMS) students had the opportunity to view life through a different lens during the school’s 15th annual “Celebration of Abilities,” on Wednesday, May 11.
Students visited the school library in groups during the day where they rotated among stations. At each station, a presenter – many of who were students – discussed how a particular disability had impacted their lives, or the lives of people close to them.
Some of the stations had exercises designed to mimic the effects that a particular disability may have on an individual’s life. At one station, students wore heavy gloves and tried to button up a shirt, simulating the difficulty people with Down syndrome can have with fine motor skills. At another station, students were tasked with drawing a star using only its reflection in a mirror to demonstrate the difficulties with visual, kinesthetic and motor skills that people with dyslexia face on a daily basis. At yet another station, students entered a darkened room where a speaker discussed the ways in which people on the autism spectrum perceive the world and how their symptoms manifest. Many of the stations were student-led, with students presenting on the disability and fielding questions.
“We’re highlighting abilities, rather than disabilities,” VCMS Psychologist, Jessica Filangeri said. “Kids are educating kids, and we’re celebrating what everyone can do, rather than what they can’t.”
Students also learned about food allergies, Tourette’s syndrome, Cystic Fibrosis and hearing impairments, among others. Posters stood on tabletops displaying collages of celebrities with disabilities, demonstrating that disabilities are not barriers to success.
Ed Devit II, a Valley Central alumnus suffered a traumatic brain injury after being involved in an automobile accident. He spoke to students about the difficulties that he has faced.
“This is important because kids need to understand that not everyone is the same,” he said. “Just because someone is acting different than you would expect, doesn’t mean that you treat them any less. It’s important to not react to another person’s symptoms.”
“I learned that it’s really hard when you have a disability,” sixth-grade student Julia Mann said. “Now, I understand why some people may act differently. We need to treat all people the same because we’re all human beings.”