For what doesn’t October raise awareness?
Though there are actually two separate months to raise awareness for disabilities. October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, while March is celebrated as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.
But this cause is especially important. This year marks 30 years since the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
Yes, it’s been only three decades since America established a law to prevent discrimination against people with disabilities, including those not visible to the eye.
Williamsburg-James City Public Schools acknowledged Disabilities Awareness Month back in March, but now the York County School Division is taking the time to highlight resources and feature students.
YCSD operates under an inclusion model and has programs for students who require additional support, said Elain Gould, director of Student Services.
The school division sent out instructional resources to their teachers and counselors to prepare for National Disability History and Awareness month, though Gould said these resources can be used all school year long.
“We really focus on using tools from the ‘I’m Determined’ project,” she said.
The project is sponsored by the Virginia Department of Education and helps students reflect on their goals and strength. The resources include tools to encourage social interaction where students can learn about themselves and one another.
More importantly, these social tactics can also be used during asynchronous learning while students are still learning remotely.
Every morning, students meet with their instructors to have a discussion. Gould said teachers can include these social tools for an asynchronous assignment then have students come back together the next morning to share.
The division also has an on-going social and emotional learning initiative, with a theme set every two months. The theme for this month is self-awareness.
“We value the contribution of all of our students, and recognize they all have strengths,” Gould said. “These tools allow students to become more self-directed, goal-setting, self-determined individuals.”
YCSD is also working on inclusion and representation outside of the classroom. Last year in August, the division did a youth summit for students with disabilities. The division was planning on having it again, but had to cancel due to COVID-19. Instead, they sent out a video compiled from last year’s summit in a newsletter to families.
The division also sends out a monthly newsletter where they provide more resources and activities for families.
Next week, the division plans on featuring alumni with disabilities.
“We really want to know where some of these students are now,” Gould said. “We’ve decided we’d like to continue that throughout the year, so we think that’s going to be a success.”
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