Field Trip Creates Learning Handicapped Kids Open Students' Eyes
Maraghy, Mary, The Florida Times Union
Four-year-old John Clark, who has cerebral palsy, had chocolate
on his mouth as he smiled at some Mandarin Middle School
seventh-graders who helped him make sweet treats from cookies,
chocolate icing and Hershey's Kisses.
"Why are you all at my school?" he asked from his electronic
The seventh-graders from teacher Jane Feber's gifted English
class were on a field trip to the special education wing at
Mandarin Oaks Elementary School. They made treats, talked with
students and teachers and asked questions as part of their study
unit on handicaps and disorders.
"It's not polite to stare, but we came to learn more, to find
out what's wrong," said Mandarin Middle student Sean Regan. "It
gives us a new understanding for kids with handicaps and teaches
us that there's nothing to be afraid of. They are the same on
For the middle school students, the unit has been an
insightful, interesting way to learn about research, literature
and life. For exceptional education teachers and others living
or working with disabled people, it's a step toward desperately
needed public awareness.
"People are intimidated by handicapped people and don't know
how to interact," said Beth Dollar, occupational therapist at
Jackie Woodard, resource support coordinator for the ARC
Jacksonville, formerly called the Association for Retarded
Citizens, is impressed with the handicap study unit. She said
she'd like to see more schools copy it to increase exposure to
the disabled population, which is in dire need of more services
For example, ARC, which provides services for the disabled, has
350 on a waiting list.
"These kids [Mandarin Middle students] will go on and graduate
and become taxpayers, voters, senators and governors and may be
more willing to support agencies," Woodard said. …