Today I am going to share my teaching tools that I have used with both grade school kids and high schoolers when talking about disabilities.
When Lily was in kindergarten I wrote a letter, explaining that it was Ds Awareness Month and it would be a great time to have a family discussion not only about Ds, but acceptance in general. It had the characteristics of someone with Ds and also what Lily went through, but it was done very simply. The letter was sent home to all the students. I can't find the letter right now, but if I do I will post it.
Then in 1st grade I was PTA president and I held a back to school assembly. I had all the children that could speak a different language open the assembly by saying hello in their native tongue,then I had picked out random students and asked them to fill out a sheet about themselves, i.e. favorite color, food, music, books, different language. I had all the students stand up and I told them if I said something that they didn't relate to or like to sit down, but to keep standing if it did relate to them or they liked what I was talking about. In the end the last person standing was the one I had read the list about and the students got to see what they all had in common with this person. Sometimes it got down to the name! Of course I had Lily and a young man with MD who was in a wheel chair be spotlighted so the kids could see that they liked the same things.
The mother of the 6th grader with MD had given me a folder with exercises in it for other children to realize what it is like to have low muscle tone. So in this assembly I had all the students stand on one leg while holding the other up with their hand and see how long they could just stand there. Of course some could do it for hours, but others including teachers and other faculty got the idea that Lily and this young man might have a harder time with coordination and doing certain things. I also had them hold there tongue tight while repeating the ABC,s. I told them that their tongue was also a muscle and that some people such as Lily might be hard to understand at times and this was part of the reason.
I always, always talk about People First Language. Lily is Lily first and always. She is 9 in the 4th grade, loves her family and animals, loves to dance, loves mac 'n cheese, chicken nuggets, french fries and a diet coke, she likes to read, play school, work on the computer, has been in a movie, and oh by the way she has Down syndrome.