Wednesday, April 12, 2017

How to Host A Successful Disability Awareness Day

I get so excited every year about my Disability Awareness Day!! It brings so much awareness onto our school campus, is so life-changing for so so many, and it's so much fun for everyone! I recently posted about the event last month and many of you have reached out to me about how you would love to host your own Disability Awareness Day, but don't know where to start. So, today I'm sharing with you everything you need to know to host your own event.  

I have six stations. I number each station and place a large task card at each station with step-by-step directions for each task they will complete at that station. This also makes it super easy for your volunteers helping out to follow. I use clear, plastic photo frames from Dollar Tree for this, but you can also choose to tape the numbers and task cards on the table too. 

Here's a peek at each station.

Students begin this station by having a piece of sandpaper taped inside the back of their shirt and they must tolerate it as long as they possibly can.
 Students practice communicating using only picture symbols and other communication devices.
The static activity requires them to communicate with their peers and try to focus on an activity while background noise plays in their ears. You can achieve this by placing it on a radio station that is just static.

In this station, students get to feel what it might feel like to have an Intellectual Disability by completing a German test, the f's test, and trying to express themselves without using any words. The mother working this station said to me upon arrival, "Oh, I don't know German." And I said, "HaHa, that's the point." 

In this station, students try reading a jumbled passage that simulates what a child with a reading disability, such as Dyslexia, may see when they try to read. 
 Students also complete the "Brain Scatter" activity which challenges them to read the color, not the word. 
It's more challenging than you think!

This is always a favorite!

Students get to practice signing phrases, learn how to sign their name, and try to listen and have conversations with cotton balls in their ears.

 At this station, students learn what it might feel like to have a vision impairment by trying to copy a blurred passage from the board...

 They learn about Braille and get to make a Braille name tag.
 And they choose a slip of paper with a drawing task on it and try their luck at "Blind Drawing."

In this station, students see what it might feel like to have a physical impairment. 
 They try to go up and down steps and sit down with a yardstick taped to their leg.

 Another activity requires them to open and close containers using only one hand, and place socks or gloves on their hand and try to pick up pennies.

This is optional, and something new I did this year. Each participant received a cupcake at the end of the event. One of my mothers and volunteers made this sign since we held the event on WDSD this year.

Her and I also made awareness ribbons for all of the participants too, but again this is optional.

Following the event, I gave my volunteers a little gift. It's a note cube, a $10 Kohl's gift card, and an Autism Awareness heart pin. Again, optional, but I want my volunteers to know how much I appreciate them!

I have to brag a little here! This year our event even made front page headlines. Woohoo! 
And 2 of the classes even wrote thank you letters to us. 

I get so many questions about this event from people wanting to host their own. Since you may have many of the same questions, I've posted them here.

Q: What grades is this event for?
A: I host the event for 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders. I feel that is a good age for them to begin to understand students with disabilities.

Q: How many students attend?
A: 156 students attended this year from six different classes. That included two 3rd grade classes, two 4th grade classes, and two 5th grade classes. 

Q: Do all students attend at once?
A: No, I break the event up into two sessions. There is a morning session and an afternoon session. 

Q: How long is each session? 
A: Each session is 2 hours and 15 minutes long. 

Q: How long is each station?
A: Each station is 20 minutes long, which equals 2 hours. The other 15 minutes is for my opening and closing statement.

Q: How do you manage the stations?
A: When students arrive, I count them off, "1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6....1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6....and over again until all students have been counted off. They go to the station that corresponds with the number they were given. Every 20 minutes, I blow a whistle and students rotate clockwise. I explain all of this to them in my opening statement.  

Q: Where do you host the event?
A: I host the event in our gymnasium. 

Q: Our students eat lunch in the gymnasium. How did you work around this?
A: All students have lunch outside on this day.

Q: How did I get volunteers for each station?
A: I send home a parent letter a couple of weeks prior. I only had two parents volunteer, so my husband and best friend also worked a station, and my two paras worked the other two stations. I also expect the teachers from the participating classes to help out too.

Q: Where are my students during the event?
A: My students are assigned to a station to assist with. 

Q: What are the blue and yellow folders each student has?
A: At the very first station, each student is given a sheet of 12x18 construction paper to fold in half and write their name on. They take this from station to station to store any activities they complete at each station.

Q: Where can I get the table signs and activities at that you used?
A: All of the signs, tasks, parent letters, and printables are available in my Disability Awareness Day Kit here.

Q: What other materials do I need to gather for the event?
A: If you have my kit, the only other materials you'll need to gather are yard sticks, masking tape, pennies, containers with lids, socks, blindfolds, radio/listening center, sandpaper, tape, cotton balls, scratch paper and pencils. 

The kit also includes a pretest and a post test that teachers can give to their students. 

I hope you'll consider hosting a Disability Awareness Day at your school to spread awareness, promote acceptance, and decrease bullying. The outcome is just amazing and touches so many!  

I hope you'll find the information I've shared helpful when hosting your own event! Don't hesitate to write me with any questions you may still have that weren't covered here.

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