Sensitizing Children to the Needs of the Handicapped

By Huber, Joseph H. | Palaestra, Winter 1991 | Go to article overview

Sensitizing Children to the Needs of the Handicapped


Huber, Joseph H., Palaestra


Sensitizing Children to the Needs of the Handicapped

For those handicapped children whose deficient physical or motor functioning has been successfully ameliorated in a specially designed physical education program, placement into regular physical education classes is not only a challenge to the instructor, but can present a formidable challenge to nonhandicapped students as well. Peer acceptance and social interaction between nonhandicapped and handicapped students is not readily accomplished and should be explicitly addressed to insure the successful transition of handicapped children into an integrated environment.

One of the major tasks to promote social acceptance of handicapped children and thus create a more favorable learning environment for all students is to address nonhandicapped students' fears and misconceptions of their handicapped peers. Many teaching strategies have been developed to achieve these goals. Some of the most commonly used programs and teaching approaches in physical education include:

* Simulation activities, e.g., blindfold activities, wheelchair games.

* Invitation of a handicapped person to speak to a class.

* Demonstration of wheelchair basketball.

* Use of library books, videotapes, and displays.

* Modification of game rules and equipment.

Since 1977, a program known as The Kids on the Block, which uses life-size hand-and-rod-puppets, has been adapted by many classroom teachers to help dispel myths and encourage interaction between nonhandicapped and handicapped students. The internationally known puppet program was created by Barbara Aiello, a former special education teacher, who is now president of her own company located in Columbia, Maryland.

To date, the physical education profession has given little attention to Aiello's approach. Could The Kids on the Block puppet program offer the profession a teaching strategy which may prove more useful in mainstreaming handicapped children than approaches currently employed?

The key educational merit of the program lies in the format of the performing puppets. Although the audience can see the puppeteers moving the body and speaking the voice of the puppet, students' attention is focused on the puppets and what is being communicated, not on the puppeteers.

Each script is written for two puppets. One puppet is handicapped and the other is a nonhandicapped friend named Melody.

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