Special Needs 9-11 yrs

Updated Apr 13, 2023

Goal: To raise awareness of special needs in order to increase understanding, sensitivity and acceptance of those with disabilities.

Materials required:

Braille Name Plaque

  • Recipe/ index card
  • Pencil
  • Tapioca balls

Marco Polo

  • Blindfold
  • Open space

No Words

  • Pieces of paper
  • Pen or pencil

Autism Awareness

  • 3 books
  • Pen or pencil


Enjoy your unit’s usual opening. Discuss how some people have health-related conditions that cause limitations or obstacles in their everyday life. Sometimes a medical problem is called a disease, a chronic illness, or a condition and sometimes it's called a disability. Whatever it's called, it inhibits a person's movements, senses, or activities and cannot be cured. Some disabilities are visible to others, while others can be invisible from the outside; some are physical and some are mental.

People with disabilities want to be included and to have friends, just like everyone else. A disability or illness is only one aspect of a person and once you get to know someone with special needs you will find that there is a lot you can have in common. Discuss how no one likes to feel different, and that the more we can learn about what it’s like to live with a disability the more sensitive, supportive and considerate we can be. People want to feel understood and respected, not pitied. People who overcome adversity inspire, challenge and enrich our world!


Braille Name Plaque

Braille is a system of lettering used by people with poor vision for reading and writing. The system of signs is formed by a combination of 1-6 raised dots arranged in a small, rectangular area called a braille cell. There is one cell for each letter, punctuation mark, number sign or capitalisation sign. A blank cell means a space between words. Blind people read braille with their fingertips. Vision impairments include things that are correctable with glasses such as being short-sighted or far-sighted as well as more serious problems that cannot be improved even with surgery such as partial or complete blindness.

  1. Using the Braille alphabet, each child will create his or her own name card.
  2. Instruct everyone to follow the Braille guide and mark the dots that correspond to the letters of their names on an index card with a pencil.
  3. Next, glue tapioca balls down on top of the dots.
  4. When the glue has dried collect all of the name cards and re-distribute them randomly.
  5. Have each child de-code the name on the card.
  6. Once everyone has figured out the letters, have them return each card to its rightful owner.


Marco Polo

One player is chosen as “It.” “It” is blindfolded and tries to find and tag the other players without the use of vision. Instead, “It” must locate players with the use of sound. The player who is "It" shouts out "Marco" and the other players must respond by shouting "Polo,” helping “It” to tell where they are. The other players should try to get as close as possible to “It” without being caught. If a player is tagged then that player becomes "It.”


No Words

Write simple sentences on pieces of paper. Select one volunteer and show one piece of paper to him or her. He or she must try to communicate the sentence to the rest of the group without writing, speaking or using any letters of the alphabet. Repeat with other volunteers.
“The car has a flat tire.”
“I forgot my homework.”
“My mom baked me a birthday cake.”
“I like to go camping.”

Discussion: Was it difficult to communicate without words or letters? What would have helped? How can we communicate with someone who can’t talk back or who can’t hear us? Discuss how learning sign language and lip reading can help to bridge this gap.

Decode with Sign Language

Decode the colour words or secret message with Sign Language.

Sign Language Alphabet

Learn the Sign Language alphabet.

Introduction to Sign Language

Sign language is a system of communication used by people with hearing impairments. Hearing impairments include everything from not being able to hear certain sounds to being totally deaf. Generally, hearing loss doesn’t simply mean that sounds are not loud enough but rather that sounds are garbled or unclear. Sign language involves visual gestures and signs expressed through the hands and face and perceived with the eyes rather than the ears. American Sign Language is the language used by English speaking deaf people in Canada.

Common words have a specific hand sign attached to them. Signs are usually used whenever possible, rather than fingerspelling, since they are more efficient. Fingerspelling is the process of spelling out words by using signs that correspond to the letters of the word. The Fingerspelled alphabet consists of 22 hand shapes that represent the 26 letters of the English alphabet when held in certain positions and/or are produced with certain movements. Fingerspelling is used to communicate proper nouns (people’s names, places, titles, brand names etc.) as well as specific, less common words that do not have their own well-established sign, such as classifications of dogs or flowers.

Have the group follow the attached alphabet chart and act out each of the letters. Then, give them the attached exercise sheet to practice recognizing the shapes by decoding the colour words.

Autism Awareness

Autism is a developmental disability that affects how a person’s brain works. Unlike blindness and deafness, it is an “invisible” disability, meaning that you might not be able to tell someone has autism by how they look. The cause is unknown. Autism is known as a “spectrum disorder” since not all people with autism are affected in the same way. Some autistic people have impairments in social interaction, understanding social norms or communication. Others have restricted interests and very repetitive behavior and like do things in the same order all the time and have things arranged the same way. Some people with autism have trouble with affection and physical contact while others like to hug. Others have a very hard time ignoring noises, especially if they are upset or in a new situation. They may try to calm themselves by rocking, moaning, talking loudly or even screaming, which helps to drown out the other noises so they can calm down. When they are overwhelmed they may seek out a small, dark place that is quieter and safer.

This activity will demonstrate how people with autism are affected by things most people don’t notice. People with autism are often extra sensitive to sound, light, movement and even things like background noises that most of us can block out. Remember, not everyone with autism has these problems. Divide the group into teams of 5. Each team member has a different job to do:

  • Person #1 plays the part of someone with autism. This person’s job is to ignore everyone else and try and listen carefully to what Person #2 is reading so that he or she can take a quiz on the material.
  • Person #2 reads a paragraph from a book to Person #1 in a normal voice then asks questions about what was read. This job must be done at a regular volume. Do not try to drown out the other noises.
  • Person #3 stands behind the youth playing the part of someone with autism and taps the end of a pen or pencil against a book over and over and stamps his or her feet.
  • Person #4 leans close to Person #1 and reads from a different book in a loud voice the entire time.
  • Person #5 (gently) pats Person #1 on the head, shoulder and back the whole time.

Have all the students take a turn being Person #1. Discuss how it felt to have so much commotion going on. Did it make anyone want to yell, push people away or run? Was anyone able to concentrate on the paragraph being read? If possible, share this two minute online video, entitled “Sensory Overload”: http://www.npr.org/blogs/krulwich/2012/11/15/165211290/mugged-by-sound-rescued-by-a-waitress


Congratulate the group on learning about what it is like to have an impairment that doesn’t go away and how to communicate with and be a friend to those with special needs. Enjoy your regular Closing.

Vanessa Day

This Meeting Plan was researched and written by our intern Vanessa Day.

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