Updated Apr 13, 2023
Goal: To raise awareness of special needs to increase understanding, sensitivity and acceptance of those with disabilities.
Braille Name Plaque
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 a disease, a chronic illness, or a condition, and sometimes a disability. Whatever it's called, it inhibits a person's movements, senses, or activities. There is no cure for a disability. Some disabilities are visible to others, while others can be invisible from the outside; some are physical and 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 is a system of lettering used by people with poor vision for reading and writing. The Braille system of signs consists 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 capitalization sign, and a blank cell means a space. Blind people read braille with their fingertips. Vision impairments include things that are correctable with glasses, such as being short-sighted or far-sighted, and more severe problems that you cannot improve even with surgery, such as partial or complete blindness.
Option #1: In this option, participants paint two pictures. First, they paint an uncomplicated picture, as usual. Then, they cover their eyes with blindfolds and try to re-create the same painting again without being able to see. Compare the differences and discuss what made the second painting more difficult.
Option #2: In this option, participants must paint a picture using either their mouths or feet. If the participant wants to try mouth painting, they can either stand up or sit down in front of the paper and put the paintbrush in their mouth. If the participant wants to try foot painting, they must sit down in front of the paper and hold the paintbrush between their toes (this is the most difficult). Professional foot and mouth artists may be disabled, chronically ill, or have had an accident that now prohibits them from using their hands. Compare their work to what the group was able to create on their first attempts. Visit: https://www.mfpacanada.com/pages/gallery
Note: You must clean paintbrushes very well in between uses.
Write simple sentences on pieces of paper. Select one volunteer and show one piece of paper to them. They must try to communicate the sentence to the rest of the group without writing, speaking or using any alphabet letters. 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.
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 word's letters. The Fingerspelled alphabet consists of 22 handshapes representing the 26 letters of the English alphabet when held in certain positions and are produced with specific movements. Fingerspelling is used to communicate proper nouns (people’s names, places, titles, brand names, etc.) and specific, less common words that do not have their well-established sign, such as classifications of dogs or flowers.
Have the group follow the attached alphabet chart and act out each letter. Then, please give them the attached exercise sheet to practice recognizing the shapes by decoding the colour words.
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 behaviour and like to 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 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 to 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 stuff 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:
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 listening to the paragraph read out loud?
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
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon is a best-selling novel for young adults. The fifteen-year-old narrator of the story, Christopher John Francis Boone, is a boy with mild autism, perhaps Asperger’s Syndrome. The story is told through Christopher’s eyes and provides a unique perspective on how it is to live with an autism-related disorder. This detective novel is hilariously comical and, at other times, heart-wrenching.
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 an empathetic friend to those with special needs. Enjoy your regular Closing.
Appendix images taken from the Instant Meetings for Brownie Guiders booklet, created by the 1999 BC Guider’s Conference.