Youngsters learn to embrace differences

It’s hard to imagine having a disability, especially if you’ve never been limited as to what you can do.

It’s hard to imagine having a disability, especially if you’ve never been limited as to what you can do.

To honor disability awareness month, students at Apollo Elementary were guided through a series of stations to experience and appreciate the challenges that to some are just an everyday part of life.

School counselor Samantha Wilson said she got the idea from another counselor at the Lake Washington School District who had done this before. Volunteer parents and teachers guided the students through the various challenges.

The listening station was designed to teach the kids what a child with ADHD, or who may be on the autism spectrum, would experience.

While one child tried to listen to Wilson read a story and comprehend what she was saying, two other children conducted a conversation between themselves, while three others continually tapped on the listener.

Fourth grader Stephanie Ramos admitted it was hard to concentrate on the story, while the second listener, fourth grader David Webb said he got some of it, but it was hard to remain focused.

Wilson said that some autistic children cannot tolerate extra stimulus like touching. And a child with ADHD has a hard time staying focused without outside interference.

Station two was all about hearing and speech. Volunteer Janet Randall talked to the students about hearing impairment, even showing them her own hearing aids. Each child received a copy of the signing alphabet — some of them already knew a few of the signs. There’s even an application called Proloquo2Go, an award-winning augmentative and alternative communication solution for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch for people who have difficulty speaking or cannot speak at all, which she showed them on her own iPad.

How about being blind or close to it? This challenge had the kids wearing opaque goggles, while trying to put together puzzles. First grader Salomé Pham tried as hard as she could, but neither she nor any of the students could get their puzzle together before time was up.

Finally, to test motor skills, the station had a two-step challenge. The first was to attempt to string colorful beads while wearing rubber gloves. If that was too easy, then the kids put socks on their hands and tried to button up a shirt, or pull down a zipper.

Wilson said this is the first year she has done this — she is also the counselor at Cougar Ridge Elementary, so the challenges were set up there as well. She said Cougar Ridge parent Becky Gordon put the kits together.

Wilson said the whole idea of the event is so the kids have a better understanding of what those with disabilities must deal with – and therefore not make fun of them, or even bully someone just because they’re different.