The author is the secretary of the Parent Advisory Board for Special Services and 504s.

Right before spring break, and just days after Wilton Town Hall was lit up blue for Autism Awareness, children at Miller-Driscoll Elementary School watched a skit based on the children’s book, One and performed by Wilton’s Top Inclusion Models (TIMs, pictured above), the Wilton High School students who teach their younger peers about the meaning of inclusion and how to stop bullying. The TIMs’ goal? To show Wilton’s youngest students that by standing together and including others, Wilton kids can create a world where everybody counts–even those who may look or act differently.

According to the lead parent organizer, Kara Berghaus, it “was amazing to see the older role models perform and deliver such important messages about kindness, inclusion, and friendship, and to see them connecting with the younger children even as they reconnected with their own past experiences at Miller-Driscoll.”

This event, as well as many others, is part of Wilton Public Schools’ Disability Awareness Month initiative, a month-long campaign sponsored by the Parent Advisory Board (PAB). The Wilton High School TIMs also support many of these events under the direction of Lauren Jansen, a Wilton High School faculty member.

Going forward, more events are planned for the rest of April and even into May. Depending on which grade and what school a child attends, he or she may:

  • Dress up in yellow and black for “Bee Kind” day (April 28) and be eligible for the Bee Kind Photo Contest (Miller-Driscoll).
  • Participate in learning centers that demonstrate the impact of different disabilities in tangible ways. Students may read a sentence with distorted lettering (dyslexia) or try to tie their shoes with socks on their hands (Cerebral Palsy), among other activities designed to shed light on differences, including the strengths of those who learn differently (Miller-Driscoll, varying grades).
  • Join in an All Colors Spirit Day (May 5) to show their spirit of acceptance and inclusion (Cider Mill).
  • Watch a TIMS skit based on the novel Wonder, which focuses on a boy with a facial deformity attending mainstream school for the first time (Cider Mill).
  • Take part in a “mix-it-up lunch” organized by the TIMs, where students will be encouraged to sit with peers who are not part of their everyday social group (Middlebrook).
  • Receive a bookmark about a famous or successful person who has struggled with a disability or with mental illness (all schools except Miller-Driscoll).
  • Receive a bookmark about being kind (Miller-Driscoll only).

All of these activities and takeaways have been sponsored or supported by the PAB, whose mission is to improve understanding of children with special needs and the services they receive within our schools and our community. In addition, the PAB aims to improve communication, education and trust among parents of children with special needs and the Wilton Public School staff and administration.

To learn more about the PAB and its other outreach programs, check out the new PAB website or contact the group via email.

For more information about Wilton High School’s TIMs or Best Buddies, read our previous story about their “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign.