Different Abilities Highlighted During Abilities Awareness Week

Posted on 03/19/2019
Students participate in an activity during Abilities Awareness Week


Throughout FHSD, educators are helping share the mindset that different abilities aren’t disabilities. Students learn that just because someone may do something differently or at a different pace than you do, doesn’t mean that they can’t do it at all. To help further facilitate this mindset, Independence Elementary School hosted Abilities Awareness Week.

Student participates in activity during Abilities Awareness Week“Each day of the week, we had videos that the teachers played to spotlight individuals at Independence that have special abilities,” said Assistant Principal Jana Schultz. “Students participated in simulation activities to experience a hearing impairment, vision impairment, motor difficulties, and learning struggles.” The activities encouraged students to use their non-dominant hand to perform a variety of tasks, like picking up bingo chips, unscrewing the top of a flashlight, and lacing up cardboard cut-outs with string. In PE, students were giving painted goggles to simulate a vision impairment while playing dodgeball.

Service dog visits Independence ElementaryA variety of guest speakers were also invited to talk with students throughout the week. CHAMPS visited for a school-wide assembly to talk about the canine assistive services they provide, including therapy, hearing, guide, and service dogs. Libby the black lab demonstrated her skills and students were taught about general dog safety.

Oscar Ramirez, a fourth grader at Warren Elementary, visited with the fourth graders at Independence to speak about his vision impairment and the assistive services that he uses. Oscar lost his sight when he was four years old due to glaucoma. He started learning braille in preschool and can now read up to 600 words per minute using a screen reader. Oscar demonstrated how he uses JAWS to navigate a computer. “And no, it’s not the 1975 movie. It’s a screen reader,” said Ramirez.

Oscar speaks to the students at Independence Elementary“Oscar is really motivated right now to learn JAWS (Job Access with Speech) on a PC,” said teacher Kevin Hollinger. “He previously received instruction and mastered the Unified English Braille Code, the Nemeth Math Code, an introduction to Braille Music Code, and he daily uses an iPad with VoiceOver with a refreshable Braille display.”

Oscar doesn’t let his different abilities hold him back. He can already touch type, knows some Spanish, and is learning echo identification – self-producing sounds to gain information about his immediate surroundings. Oscar is also a talented self-taught pianist, who has played with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra. He loves to play fast songs and likes Beethoven and Chopin. When he grows up, he wants to be a pianist or join the military.

“Abilities Awareness week in FHSD is about demystifying disability,” said Hollinger. “The opportunity to stand in front of one’s peers and advocate for kindness, compassion, equality, and expectation is very powerful.”

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