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Ephesus Elementary Elevates Disabilities Awareness

For two weeks in October, the second grade classes at Ephesus Elementary School (EES) started each day with a Morning Message to expand awareness about children and adults with disabilities for Disability History and Awareness Month. Teachers Kim Chamberlin, Courtney Sears and Kara O’Dor collaborated to develop a series of Morning Messages, using extensive resources provided by the Exceptional Children (EC) teachers and the Special Needs Advisory Committee (SNAC) representatives, Lauren Stanek and Rebecca Carter.

The first message asked children to consider the essential question, “Why do you think it is important to learn about different disabilities?” For the rest of that week, the messages introduced the concepts of hearing and vision impairment, as well as physical and intellectual disabilities. One morning they learned about autism. On another, they learned that the author of the popular book series “Captain Underpants,” Dav Pilkey, grew up with a learning disability.

Each message contained at least one prompt like, “Let’s learn why it’s so important to make sure we include friends who may not look like you, move like you, or learn like you in activities.” Most of the messages also included brief video clips, introducing people with disabilities, like Phoebe with cerebral palsy or Megan with Down Syndrome.

Chamberlin said, “One thing we really liked about these messages was hearing FROM the people with disabilities, not just about the disabilities. This provided the kids with an opportunity to make connections and understand others on a personal level.”

Throughout EES, different classes used the collected resources in varied age-appropriate lessons and activities. North Carolina law states that local boards of education are required to provide instruction on disability history and awareness, but certainly not every school offers such expansive and creative paths to introducing all students to the range of disabilities that exist among their peers.

Media Specialist Sloane Akos developed a list of relevant book titles available in the Media Center, starting with simple read-alouds like “Moses Goes to a Concert” and “Susan Laughs” to books for older children like “I Even Funnier” and “Out of My Mind.”

For all students, staff, families and visitors to enjoy in the school atrium, the SNAC and EC teams designed a beautiful bulletin with the message, “Cultivate Inclusion and Everyone Blooms.” Stanek said, "Our goal with the bulletin board was just to honor the theme of inclusion in a pretty, positive, and eye-catching way. Sloane Akos, our amazing school librarian, provided a list of resources available in the media center as well. It was fun! One thing we'd like to do in the future is a supply drive for EC teachers and specialists because their needs are different, and they aren't currently included in the back to school supply list."