SALEM, Ohio (WYTV) – The goal of a new program at Salem Middle School is to teach students what it’s like to live with a disability.
The idea comes from a parent who wants the idea to be introduced in every school across the Valley.
“I think it’s one thing to come in and talk to students about different disabilities, it’s another to show them what it feels like to be in their world,” said parent Stephanie Champlin.
A few months ago, Champlin, whose son attends Salem Middle School and has a learning disability, teamed up with the Columbiana County Board of Developmental Disabilities (CCBDD) to build simulation activities for a special program.
On Tuesday, Salem eighth graders we taught a unique lesson in their health class.
“The purpose was to try to help them get an actual feel, to build some empathy and understanding of what those disabilities may be like to deal with on a daily basis,” said CCBDD’s Shirly Bowald.
The students did activities like charades or saying the words of colors when the color of that word is different on their paper.
Eighth-grader Lance Bailey said it can help with life outside of the classroom as well.
“I think it’d be good for other kids around this area to understand it better. So whenever it comes time for them to meet someone with a disability, they understand. They know how to handle it,” Bailey said.
“So they have a better understanding as to maybe why a student isn’t answering something right away or why they’re acting a certain way in the classroom,” said Principal Matt Ziegler.
Ziegler has a special needs child of his own. He said Tuesday was a testing day for the new program.
Next school year, students in seventh and eighth grade will take the class twice a week.
If it were up to Champlin, Salem wouldn’t be the only school district.
“The ultimate goal is to roll this out to every school in Columbiana County. Then, a further goal that I have down the road is to implement this in every school in Ohio,” Champlin said.
As part of the program, students signed a pledge banner that reads: “I pledge to accept, include and respect people of all abilities.”