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Disability Awareness with Cub Scouts

Written by Erin Elizabeth;
A large part of teaching is talking to people in a variety of situations, be it helping them understand a difficult topic or guiding them through new information. As a teacher, I'm comfortable communicating in this way, and am becoming more so as I continue to gain experience. However, I am definitely not as relaxed when it comes to talking about my disability. While I will happily answer any questions someone might have, I've never been one to draw attention to myself for something I consider to be a relatively small part of who I am as a person.

In light of this, when ECNV Peer Mentor, Elizabeth Kumar, asked me to do a presentation about my disability, I was reluctant at first. Given that the audience would be fourth-grade Cub Scouts, though, I realized that this was an opportunity to promote overall awareness rather than to give myself a pat on the back for living the life I want. The presentation I prepared aimed to give the boys a simple ‘toolbox' of things that would help them interact with disabled people, whatever their diagnosis, just like they would with anyone.

The presentation surpassed my expectations in many ways. Most importantly, the final result wasn't an hour of me talking to the boys; it was a discussion, the boys and I exchanging ideas and talking with each other. The points I made were simply springboards for the boys to think critically, taking their previous knowledge, combining it with the things they were being told, and forming questions to fill in the gaps. This is sometimes difficult to do, and this group did it excellently. Their questions were always relevant, insightful, and phrased kindly. Some of the questions that have stayed with me, several weeks later:
  • “If you have trouble with your balance, do you have to worry about falling out of bed at night?”
  • “Do you stay in your wheelchair all day, every day? Can you get out of it easily by yourself?”
  • “When someone moves suddenly, does that bother you the same way that loud noises do?”
  • “How did you learn to drive your chair?”
Thanks, boys of Pack 861, for helping me change some of my beliefs as much as I hope I changed yours!