Understanding Disabilities celebrates 30 years of teaching disability awareness in the Reading Public Schools.
A community-wide speaker series to encourage thoughtfulness in the community in which our children grow and learn is introduced. The turnout for the speakers was overwhelming.
With a grant from Target, UD provided all elementary school libraries in Reading with children’s books about disabilities.
UD adds a full unit on Autism Spectrum Disorders. The creation of the unit was funded by a grant from the Harpley Foundation, which also supports our town-wide kick-off to bring attention and support for this new program. Our elementary school unit on Autism was first delivered to 5th graders in January 2011.
UD has thrived through 30 years of economic, political, and cultural change because of the strength and truth of its message. There have always been 250 volunteers willing to work in support of a level playing field for children with disabilities. The school administration continues to encourage that values of understanding and respect be included in the schools’ culture. Each year principals and 80-plus teachers warmly invite UD into their classrooms and often weaves themes of understanding and respect into their lessons. Local businesses and foundations help fund speakers, buy new materials, or donate books about disabilities.
The idea to start Understanding Disabilities came to Reading resident Judy LeBlanc after she was asked to speak about her blindness to students in Lynnfield. She was so impressed with the enthusiasm she saw among students and teachers that she created a disabilities awareness program in her hometown of Reading in 1984 called Understanding Handicaps. The program addressed the social aspects of children with disabilities newly entering general education classrooms. The programs, which cleared the way for children to become friends with each other despite initially seeming different, became popular in Reading's schools. Judy remained active in UD until her death in 2009. Her husband Philip LeBlanc remains a supporter.
Understanding Disabilities, Inc. © 2015
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Understanding Disabilities depends on donations to meet our budget each year and continue our programming.
To lay the groundwork for our "UD at Home" program, the Understanding Disabilities website was launched in January 2013.