Schools raise inclusion, disability awareness

Each spring, the Parent Advisory Board (PAB) sponsors Disability/Inclusion Awareness Month for the Wilton Public School District, which involves the planning and implementation of programming in each of Wilton’s four public schools.

“We work in collaboration with our board members, who include administrators, members of the Board of Education and parents of children receiving support services for learning disabilities and special needs,” said PAB director Kara Berghaus.

“Our goal throughout the school year is to provide support, education, awareness and facilitate collaboration among parents, families, teachers, and administrators to provide our students with the support they need to become successful 21st-Century learners.”

This year, learning differences/disability simulation stations were installed in the schools’ Library Learning Commons. The stations were designed to engage students in experiential simulation activities that help them learn to internalize the virtues of compassion and empathy and increase their ability to understand the different perspectives, strengths and values that make up a diverse learning population.

First through fifth graders were also given the opportunity to participate in an interactive digital learning presentation called Different Kinds of Smart, which encouraged a growth mind-set and allowed students to explore their own learning styles in an engaging and interactive manner.

Top Inclusion Models

As part of the PAB’s Inclusion Disability/Inclusion Awareness Month programming, Wilton High School’s Top Inclusion Models Club puts on performances, presenting the themes of inclusion, friendship, and understanding and appreciating individual differences, at Miller-Driscoll and Cider Mill each year.

The Top Inclusion Models Club has been around for about a decade, and its mission is to promote inclusion of all students regardless of ability or differences. Berghaus said the club has around 120 members, 25 to 30 of whom are active.

This year, club members performed a short play based on Patrice Barton’s book The Invisible Boy. They performed the approximately 15-minute-long play, directed by Nan Merolla, for Miller-Driscoll students on March 6 and for Cider Mill students on March 16. After each performance, the cast interacted with the students and answered questions.

“It was an amazing experience for all included, and the students in the audience really understood the message — how small acts of kindness can help all kids feel included and valued and allow them to make friends and flourish,” said Merolla.

“Lauren Catalano, the Cider Mill assistant principal, said it was exactly what her kids were dealing with.”

Top Inclusion Models member Lauren Robertson said the performances “went great,” and the mission was “to promote inclusion and teach the younger kids in Wilton that trying to include everyone can really make a difference.”

“These kids look up to us and it’s so important that they know the value in being kind,” said Lauren. “As mentors, we hope to instill inclusion so that no kid ever has to feel left out or alone. In today’s world, a little bit of inclusion can go a long way.”