On April 4th, 2018 the Disability Awareness Players lead a Disability Awareness Training (DAT) for 540 students and 40 teachers at Fairview Elementary School in Mt. Prospect, IL. The gymnasium was packed with students ranging from first through fifth grades and their teachers. The atmosphere was amazing! The students were eager to learn, volunteer, and ask great questions. Here’s what the Players had to say about the experience:
Q. Was your recent experience at Fairview Elementary a positive one? Why?
John: It was very positive because everyone was friendly and accepting of our team.
Abbie: Yes, I liked how engaged the students were. They were all really good listeners.
Henry: It was really nice because the kids asked great questions, but they weren’t all about disabilities.
Q. What do you think the students learned from the training?
John: People with disabilities are just people, and they should be treated equally.
Henry: I think they learned how to treat their friends with disabilities just like they would any friend. They learned not to make fun of students and to use the right language to describe their disabilities.
Sarah ST: That people are just people, with or without a disability.
Q. What was your favorite question the students asked the Players?
Sarah A.: “What is your favorite sports team?” That is such a normal question to talk about with your friends at school!
Abbie: One that really stood out to me was from a boy who has autism. He asked why he has it, and Tricia explained to him that it is just a part of who he is. I thought that was a great interaction because the student was trying to understand his disability and why that made him different from other kids.
Henry: “What is your favorite basketball team?” I liked this question because I’m an athlete myself and I watch a lot of sports.
Q. How did it make you feel that almost every student volunteered for role-playing and had questions?
Sarah S.T.: It made me feel like they were really engaged and not bored.
Henry: It made me feel great because the kids wanted to get involved. They wanted to be present with all the Players. They weren’t afraid of us.
Sarah A: I was amazed and shocked in the most positive way!
Q. What impact did the training at Fairview have on you?
Sarah ST: It had a positive impact on me and it just reinforced that I like helping the younger generation improve their sense of the world.
Henry: I felt really good and happy after the DAT at Fairview.
Sarah A.: I always get nervous talking in front of children….but they were so accepting it built my self-confidence.
Q. Why do you think it’s important to do Disability Awareness Trainings (DAT) in schools?
Abbie: I think it’s important to do DATs at schools because kids are the next generation, and if they learn about disability awareness at a young age, they’ll be able to educate others such as their parents, friends, and teachers about interacting with people with disabilities.
John: I think when kids learn about people who have disabilities at an early age, they might grow up with a different view of people who have disabilities.
Sarah A.: It is so important for kids to learn about disability awareness because in schools there is a divide between kids with disabilities and neuro-typical kids, which creates stigmas and misconceptions.
Henry: Because we can teach kids about disability awareness when they are young and they can take the information home and share with their parents. When they grow up they can tell their kids about disability awareness.
Q. What are some differences between training kids vs. adults?
Sarah S.T.: Students are more inquisitive.
Abbie: I like how kids always have questions for us, while adults are more hesitant.
Sarah A.: Training students is so much fun because they aren’t afraid to ask the honest questions that adults are too afraid to ask. They add humor and are more open-minded.
John: I like training adults and and kids, but training kids is fun because they are more open to learn.
As The Players drove back to Evanston, we couldn’t stop talking about how electrifying the training at Fairview felt. A key element of that energy was that the kids weren’t afraid to ask deep and tough questions.
Many thanks to the Fairview Elementary PTA and Principal Ophus for making the Disability Awareness Training possible!