Adams Elementary students are learning an important lesson this week. Everybody counts.
That’s the name of an awareness week that teaches students in kindergarten through fifth grade what life is like for people with disabilities.
“It makes them aware of everybody’s feelings,” said Lisa Samuels, a community volunteer who helped organize this week’s events.
“We want to make our children see how students with disabilities deal with everyday life so they can feel at ease with other people’s differences.”
The differences Sue Seymour’s second-grade class learned about Wednesday were hearing impairments.
Student Tori Scott was impressed to learn the methods people with hearing impairments use to communicate with others.
“I didn’t know people could read mouths,” Scott said. “And I never did my name in sign language. Now I can show my parents and my sister.”
Learning to sign their names, the alphabet and words like “hamburger,” “butterfly” and “telephone” was just one aspect of Wednesday’s Everybody Counts lesson.
Kim Hogge, a resource teacher for learning-disabled students at Sheridan Middle and High schools, also taught the students how the ear works and why people wear hearing aids.
Using a model of saran wrap pulled tightly over a bowl, Hogge showed the students how the sound waves from a loud noise could make salt dance over the bowl’s surface. She then explained how messages move through the ear on these waves.
“So you can hear a kitten purr or a dog bark,” Hogge said. “But with a little boy or girl with a part of the ear that doesn’t work properly, their messages can’t keep going on through the ear.”
She then designated some students to represent parts of the ear and lined them up in front of the class. Next, she passed a message down the line like they were playing a game of telephone, showing the students the order that sound waves pass through the ear.
When one student was pulled out of the line, the message couldn’t make it through, just like what happens when part of a person’s ear isn’t formed correctly, Hogge said.
She also explained to the class how hearing aids can help with two types of hearing disabilities.
“Sometimes people can’t hear soft voices, and with some people, everything’s jumbled,” Hogge said. “These help clear up the noise.”
Hogge said she hoped the lesson taught the class that children with hearing disabilities are like the students in most other ways.
“It helps them understand at a young age that kids with a hearing loss can do things just like them,” she said.
All Adams Elementary second-graders learned about hearing loss during Everybody Counts week, while kindergartners had an overview of all disabilities. Students in other grades learned about visual impairments, mental handicaps, physical handicaps and learning disabilities.
But whether they learned about dyslexia, autism or people who use wheelchairs, Hogge said all students will take away the same lesson from the program.
“They learn to respect people who have disabilities,” she said.
By Beth Shively