Every time I saw Mrs. LeBlanc, Understanding Disabilities (UD)’s founder, walking with her dog in town when I was little it was akin to a celebrity sighting for me. Decades later, I’m happy to be part of her legacy. Here is a bit more about why.
- As UD states, its curriculum “motivates students to act compassionately and respectfully at school today and in society tomorrow.” I joined UD’s Board so that I could contribute to its mission more directly.
- As a parent, I want everyone to respect and appreciate differences—our own and others’—and UD has perfected how we reinforce those concepts in our elementary school classrooms. As a career coach with experience in professional development and talent acquisition roles I love helping professionals realize the ways in which their uniqueness brings value to an organization, and preparing them to find roles that leverage their strengths. Diversity in a team makes group perspective more robust, builds a complement of individual natural talents and frequently creates an engaging environment that makes work feel less like work. Our children need to experience the same kind of diversity that works so well in the workplace.
- I was saddened, though not surprised, to read a long list of negative experiences that children with disabilities face more frequently than those without—experiences ranging from social distancing and bullying to depression and suicide. I need to help make a bigger dent in the statistics.
- UD developed curricula around 8 topics: Food Allergies, Physical Disabilities, Hard of Hearing, Low Vision, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Learning Disabilities, Developmental Disabilities, and Emotional and Behavioral Challenges. Each of those 8 are realities for my immediate and extended family, my circle of friends, my co-workers and my clients.
- Practice makes permanent. We owe a duty to both the child who may feel, be or appear different in any respect, and the child who perceives another as different to create common framework of acceptance and respect. UD lessons empower both sides of the relationship and ripple beyond the UD curriculum to smooth the way for increased compassion. In learning to respect and embrace another child’s uniqueness, children will learn to give themselves the same gracious treatment. Inclination to accept and respect becomes a stronger tool.
- Children need a layered approach to reinforce concepts of respecting diversity, uniqueness and differences. Parents need support in talking with their children about their observations of others’ uniqueness; how do we appropriately acknowledge that what our child observes is a distinguishing characteristic while promoting their appreciation for the whole person? The ideas that students take home after a day with UD pave the way for new conversations at home.
The curriculum that UD takes to my sons’ school gives them and their peers tools that support their social and emotional learning, and elevates both sympathy and empathy. Thanks to UD’s thoughtful approach, students’ perspectives expand during the lesson, providing immediate impact.
I’m proud to support that effort.