SPRING CHURCH — Students at Apollo-Ridge Middle School will have the chance for a lesson of a somewhat different kind today and Friday when the Amazing Kids workshop pays them a visit.
The program, an initiative of the Pittsburgh-based Children’s Institute, helps students to learn about peers with disabilities. Popular throughout southwestern Pennsylvania, the presentation and its elementary school counterpart, Kids on the Block, has paid a visit to a number of schools in and around Indiana.
“These programs help to promote important social skills and learning experiences for all students,” said Matthew Curci, Apollo-Ridge superintendent. “The experience and lessons learned will enrich our school culture and climate, promoting an understanding of disabilities and how all individuals may work together with a common appreciation for one another.”
The program, which will include hands-on simulation activities as well as videos with stories from children who have disabilities, will share topics ranging from learning disabilities to physical ones.
“It covers a lot of information throughout the three video clips,” said Judy Parker, one of the Children’s Institute program presenters.
The video segments are effective, Parker said, because the subjects discussing their challenges are also middle school-aged children.
“The kids in the videos have (the students’) full attention because they are one of them,” she said. “They identify with those students. We find that they’re very engaged. We usually have a lively discussion.”
In addition to learning what challenges disabled individuals may face, the program also allows students to examine questions the kids may have, such as why some of their peers may need adaptations, like computers, in order to learn.
To understand the difficulty some may have in doing so, during an Amazing Kids program, students participate in simulations of situations that a student with disabilities may experience.
And for students who do live with disabilities, the program, Parker said, gives them some new perspective as well.
“Students will feel validated and say, ‘Hey, I have autism, or I have a learning disability.’ So it can be validating for the students,” she said.