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MISD Lives Kind: Wolford Diversity Days Foster Understanding and Kindness Toward Students with Disabilities

Article|
Shane Mauldin|
Monday, December 10, 2018
  • This tapestry at Wolford Elementary embraces the heart of the MISD Lives Kind initiative and sets the tone for the school's positive culture.
  • Students gained new understanding about dyslexia after attempting to read a passage with moving letters and trying to trace a shape using only a reflected image.
  • In the session on autism, two Wolford students attempt to communicate using a board with only symbols.
  • During the session about ADD/ADHD, students had to cope with bright, moving lights, random sounds, video images and a feather duster being used to distract them while trying to complete a task.
  • A student at Wolford Elementary learns how trying the simplest tasks can be when one has difficulty with fine motor skills.
  • During the ADD/ADHD simulation a leader attempts to distract a student with a feather duster.

McKinney, Texas – The familiar old adage advises that, before you judge someone, you should try walking a mile in their shoes.

But, sometimes, it only takes a few steps to gain a fresh perspective.

To that end, Wolford Elementary hosted its annual Diversity Days event on Monday, Nov. 26 and Tuesday, Nov. 27 to help all of its students better understand the road traveled by those who live with disabilities.

By doing so, Wolford is laying a solid foundation for understanding, compassion and kindness among its students.

boys at table with frustrated look

Wolford Elementary students attempt to read a passage of text in a dyslexia simulation during the school’s Diversity Days.

“I think it’s important for our students to see that there are other children and adults who have challenges, and I think having students walk in their shoes and have those experiences makes them a more compassionate, kind person. And, I think that’s important,” said Wolford Principal Fran Gratt.

This year, Wolford split the formerly one day event into two days to accommodate smaller groups and provide more opportunities to take part. Every student rotated during their specials classes (music, P.E. and art) through four stations that each offered an approximation of the experience of coping with a particular disability.

To simulate the challenge of dyslexia, students took on the difficult task of reading a passage of text in which the characters constantly shifted and jumped about. They attempted to trace a shape on a piece of paper while using only a mirror reflection for reference.

student in wheelchair with lunch tray on lap

During Diversity Days at Wolford Elementary, students learned about the physical challenges that some of their peers face each day. Here a student attempts to maneuver a wheel chair while balancing a lunch tray on his lap.

To help them grasp the challenges faced by those with physical impairments, they attempted school-related tasks such as carrying a lunch tray while maneuvering a wheelchair, and trying to tie shoes and button shirts while wearing bulky gloves.

In one classroom, a group of students listened to a presentation about autism and struggled through the process of communicating using only a board arranged with symbols. In a fourth classroom, students were bombarded with competing noises, flashing lights and a feather duster tickling the backs of their necks as they attempted to maintain focus on an assigned paper and pencil task.

O'Dell and students trying to button shirts and tie shoes

McKinney ISD Trustee Stephanie O’Dell attempts to button a shirt while wearing gloves to simulate fine motor challenges.

After a few minutes of the sensory chaos, they discussed the experience with presenter Dganit Tuval who helped them unpack the challenges faced by those with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

“What I loved about it [is that] in each group, I had three or four kids tell me, ‘You know what, I have ADHD,’ or ‘I really feel like this,’ or ‘I have a brother that feels like this,’” said Tuval. “And, it’s really nice that they shared because I think that often people are ashamed or don’t like to share. I have a child with special needs and a brother, and my parents didn’t share that. They were always cautious not to tell everybody. I do [tell people], and I find a lot of understanding. So, I think if people share and talk about it, it’s easier for both sides.”

McKinney ISD Board of Trustees member Stephanie O’Dell and MISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel stopped by the campus on Tuesday and took part in the activities.

“I really like that Wolford does this and lets all the kids see what it’s like to live with disabilities, whether it’s in a wheelchair or experiencing sensory overload,” she said. “It’s teaching these kids empathy for people that have such disabilities, and the kids really understand, and they care enough to help their friends. The empathy and compassion that it’s teaching is wonderful.”

McDaniel, who introduced the MISD Lives Kind initiative in August said, “Our vision is that everyone involved with McKinney ISD would find opportunities to show kindness to others—from kindergarten students to our graduating seniors. This type of event helps foster understanding and compassion among our students and strengthens the foundation upon which we are building a district noted for its remarkable kindness toward one another.”

McDaniel tracing shape with pencil while looking at the image in a mirror

McKinney ISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel attempts one of the simulation exercises during the dyslexia session.

Wolford third grader Lucy Cleveland found activities such as the reflected tracing exercise in the dyslexia simulation both eye-opening and frustrating. “I couldn’t do it right, and when I looked at it I was like, ‘That does not look good!’”

Trying to manipulate buttons and tie shoes while wearing gloves didn’t go so well for her either, but the takeaway was right on target. “It kind of helps me learn to help others,” Lucy said. “And, if they’re having trouble, just go up and say, ‘Do you need any help with anything?’ I’d just like to be encouraging to others and just make them feel good.”

And, regardless of whose shoes you may be walking in, that kind of attitude always moves us forward.

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