Disability Awareness Month 2018: “Be Cool. We Are.”

Help children build disability awareness by celebrating the beauty of differences and similarities.

What makes you unique? Is it a love for a hobby? Your passion for caring for children? Or is it a quirky personality trait that leaves others saying, “That’s so you!”

We all have things that make us special – they set us apart.

Join us in advancing the inclusion of all people.

This March, Indiana celebrates Disability Awareness Month with the goal to increase awareness of the integration and inclusion of all people with disabilities. This year’s campaign, led by the Indiana Governor’s Council for People with Disabilities, is “Be Cool. We are.”

You see, unfortunately for children and adults with disabilities, it is often not a love or a passion that sets them apart. Instead, their disability is what others take notice of. Too often, the way they are different from others also makes others uncomfortable or even nervous. While it is important to celebrate all differences, including a disability, the campaign boldly urges our community, “No matter the differences between people, it is better to treat others the way you want to be treated, and this is especially true when interacting with friends, co-workers and other Hoosiers who live with disabilities.”

Explore this topic with children zero to five.

So what does this mean for your little learners? Quite simply, it means sharing with them the beauty of their similarities and differences. We can take the time to teach them to be comfortable with their own and others’ uniquenesses while acknowledging their similarities, too.

Here are three simple activities that you can do in the classroom that will help teach your little learner how to share and talk about differences:

  • Read Sesame Street’s storybook We’re Amazing, 1, 2, 3 with your little learners. Discuss the similarities and differences of the characters.
  • Ask your little learners, “What makes you different, special or unique?” Have them draw a picture of themselves — and maybe friends or family — and share it with one another.
  • Create an “inclusion garden” with families. Have parents and children write down what makes them special on a flower and hang flowers in the hallway. Don’t forget to hang it at a level that your little learners can explore it easily.
Want to learn more?

Check out these online resources:

Jamie Le Sesne Spears supports early learning programs in their efforts to provide inclusive, supportive education and care statewide. Her passion for effective practice is rooted in her seven years of experience educating children with varying abilities as a preschool and kindergarten educator, as well as a behavioral technician. She has also created and implemented curricula, monitored student progress and pursued family engagement practices. She earned her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from Miami University and her Master of Education in special education at Indiana University, IUPUI. During her master’s program, Jamie helped develop trainings focused on equity, early childhood education and inclusive practices. Working with children with dis/abilities is one of Jamie’s strongest passions, and she enjoys volunteering with local churches to develop inclusive dis/ability ministries.