Throughout the school year, the Parent Advisory Board–Wilton administrators, Board of Education members and parents of children receiving support services for learning disabilities and special needs–focuses on providing support, education and awareness, and facilitating collaboration among parents, families, teachers and administrators to provide special education students with the support they need to become successful 21st century learners.

Each year, the PAB sponsors Disability/Inclusion Awareness Month for the district, and plans and implements programming in each of the four Wilton Public Schools. This year, the program will take place during the month of March.

Kara Berghaus, PAB co-chair, is excited about the variety of programs being implemented.

“With the support from the administration we have been able to expand and enrich the programming through the Library Learning Commons (LLC) to include valuable, project-based learning opportunities for students to broaden their knowledge base for understanding different learning disabilities and differences in a fun and interactive way. Through their engagement in experiential simulation activities the students learn to internalize the virtues of compassion and empathy and increase their ability to understand the different perspectives, strengths and values that make up a diverse learning population.”

In addition to having learning differences/disability simulation stations, the LLC programs also give students in grades 1-5 the opportunity to participate in an interactive, digital learning presentation titled “Different Kinds of Smart.” Students are able to explore different learning styles in an engaging and interactive manner while encouraging a growth mindset.

At Middlebrook, the PAB is hosting its first-ever peer-led student panel consisting of high school, college, post-college, and faculty members that have journeyed through learning differences, special needs and mental health issues and have become successful in their lives today. The goal of this program is to inspire, support, and educate all learners in order to reduce the stigma that often is associated with special needs and learning differences, and to celebrate learning strengths and resiliency.

“It is sure to be an empowering day that fosters support and strengthens the school community,” says Berghaus.

One of the most exciting components of the programming includes the school-based performances presented by the Wilton High School Top Inclusion Models (TIMs). For the past few years the TIMs have visited both Miller-Driscoll and Cider Mill during Disability/Inclusion Awareness Month. The high school students create, practice and perform in both schools utilizing the themes of inclusion, understanding/appreciating individual differences and friendship. This year the PAB has recruited a theater director to work with the TIMs to help them take their performance to the next level!  The hope is that this unique program will be a source of inspiration for our younger students and plant the seed for them to grow into future Top Inclusion Models.

There are several other PAB programs that will be implemented across the district over the month, including:

 

Miller-Driscoll School

Theme:   Be Kind

  • “Be Kind” bookmarks will be printed and distributed to all students to bring home during the first week of March.
  • Spring planters for “Be Kind” to be displayed in front of the library during the month of March/April
  • Top Inclusion Model (TIMs) Miller-Driscoll visit and performance:   Tuesday, March 6
  • TIMs to present to the 1st and 2nd grade classes at MD. Theme based upon the story, “The Invisible Boy,” by Trudy Ludwig, addresses inclusion, kindness and understanding differences.
  • MDTV to interview TIMs and MD students post assembly
  • “Dress Like a Bee” spirit day:  Friday, March 9–Students and staff to dress in yellow and black like a bee for “Be Kind” for Disability Awareness Month. There will be a drawing and prizes given out for students that participate in dressing like a “Bee.”
  • Library Learning Commons:   Week of March 19-24–During library block, volunteers and staff will incorporate Disability Awareness and Learning differences stations to promote understanding of different learning styles and differences
    • Books: Zero, One and Two by Kathryn Otoshi, as well as a variety of other developmentally appropriate books to include stories that teach about inclusion, empathy and understanding of learning differences, disabilities and strengths.
    • Students will participate in the interactive power point presentation of “Different Kinds of Smart”
    • Students will explore and learn about different learning styles while fostering a growth mindset.

Cider Mill School

Theme:   Cultivate Inclusion

  • PAB will donate spring planters to be placed outside of Cider Mill during the month of March with different flowers to celebrate inclusion/diversity in the same planter together.
  • “Cultivate Inclusion,” banner for Disability Awareness Month.
  • Bookmarks with famous people with disabilities and special needs to be distributed to each student the first week of March by TIMs at an assembly.
  • Top Inclusion Model Cider Mill visit and Performance:  Thursday, March 8
  • All Colors Day School Spirit Day:   Thursday, March 8–Students will wear all four house colors on spirit day to cultivate inclusion for disability awareness month.
  • Library Learning Commons:    Week of March 12-16–During library block, volunteers and staff will incorporate Disability Awareness and Learning differences literacy.
    • Students will have the opportunity to participate in Disability Awareness/Learning Differences Stations during library block including an interactive power point presentation of “Different Kinds of Smart”
    • Students will explore and learn about different learning styles while fostering a growth mindset.
    • Library will feature Disability Awareness/Learning Differences themed books throughout the month of March.

Middlebrook

Theme:   Warriors Never Alone

  • Bookmarks with famous people with disabilities to be printed and posted on display during the month of March on the bulletin board
  • Mix it up lunch day:  (Warriors Never Alone)  Top Inclusion Models help to host a “mix it up” lunch day where students are encouraged to branch out a mix up their lunch tables to include different students at their lunch tables.
  • Student Peer Panel:  Panel discussion with Smart Kids with LD for the Middlebrook students; demystify and de-stigmatize disabilities and differences through empowerment, education and awareness. Panel of 4-5 participants to include a high school student, college student, post-college grad, and staff/administration member. In partnership with Smart Kids with LD, MB administration and PAB reps.

Wilton High School

  • Bookmarks including famous/inspirational people with learning disabilities, special needs and mental health struggles with their stories of success to be displayed/distributed at WHS
  • Top Inclusion Models to sponsor a mix it up lunch
  • Possible Student Peer Panel Expansion for the High School
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