Home' The River Weekly News : RWN 012216 Contents 21
THE RIVER - JANUARY 22, 2016
by Shelley M.
dren have moved
to a new, more
school and there
are many children
in their school with
handicaps. This is
a relatively new experience for them and
they are somewhat uncomfortable inter-
acting with disabled students. How can I
help them feel comfortable with their new
Heather R., Cape Coral
Your children are not alone in their
hesitation to interact with people who
have disabilities. It can be a problem for
many people of all ages. Fortunately,
there are lots of ways that you as a par-
ent can help your children gain a much
better understanding of their disabled
peers and also teach them how to be
comfortable interacting with them.
Dr. Deborah Elbaum, MD, a volunteer
with disability awareness program has
some great suggestions for you. Make
sure that your children have this basic
information about disabilities.
• No two people are the same – some
differences are just more noticeable.
• A disability is only one character-
istic of a person. People have many
facets: likes and dislikes, strengths and
• Children with disabilities are like all
children in that they want friends, respect
and to be included.
• Children can be born disabled or
become disabled from an accident or ill-
ness. You can’t “catch” a disability from
• Just because someone has a physi-
cal disability (when a part or parts of the
body do not work well) does not mean
they necessarily have a cognitive (or
• Children with disabilities can do
many of the things your child does, but it
might take them longer. They may need
assistance or adaptive equipment to help
• Try to use clear, respectful language
when talking about someone with disabili-
ties. For a younger child, keep explana-
tions simple, such as, “She uses a wheel-
chair because a part of her body does not
work as well as it could.”
•Reinforce with your child that name
calling – even if meant as a joke – is
always unacceptable as it hurt’s people’s
Reading or learning about a disability
is a great way to further understand a
child’s experiences. It may also help dis-
pel any questions you or your child may
have. Your local library and librarian can
be a great resource for finding age-appro-
priate books and materials.
• Read picture books with younger
children and discuss them afterward.
• Chapter books with characters who
have special needs are appropriate for
older readers. Ask your child about the
book when he or she is done; maybe
you’ll be intrigued and read it yourself.
• Some audio-visual materials have
positive portrayals of children with dis-
abilities. Sesame Street, for example,
routinely includes children with disabilities
in their episodes.
• Websites with age-appropriate expla-
nations and activities can be interesting
and fun to explore.
Find out if your child’s school offers
any disability-awareness curriculum.
These types of programs teach children
about different disabilities, often through
engaging activities and guest speakers.
Consider volunteering if they need parent
volunteers; it can be a wonder ful experi-
ence for both you and the students.
Here are some helpful links for more
Kids’ Quest, http://www.cdc.gov/
ncbddd/kids/index.html, National Center
on Birth Defects and Developmental
University of Wisconsin at
Oshkosh bibliography on children’s
books about disabilities, http://
Indiana Institute on Disability and
Community, Indiana University,
Kids’ Corner, http://www.iidc.indiana.
Shelley Greggs is adjunct faculty at
Florida SouthWestern State College,
where she teaches psychology and
education courses. She is also a nation-
ally certified school psychologist and
consultant for School Consultation
Services, a private educational consult-
ing company. Questions for publication
may be addressed to smgreggs@gmail.
com. Not all questions submitted can
be addressed through this publication.
submitted by Andrew R. Campanella
When it comes to K-12 educa-
tion, America’s parents want
In fact, almost two thirds of par-
ents – 64 percent – say they wish they
had more options for their children’s
In a society where Americans choose
practically everything, from the brands of
coffee they drink in the morning to the
types of cars they drive, it is understand-
able that parents are demanding more of
a say in where they send their children to
Parents understand that with greater
options come better results for their chil-
dren. Every child is unique, with distinc-
tive interests and learning styles. Moms
and dads know that a school that might
work for one student might not be a good
fit for another.
In many states, Florida included, law-
makers have taken action to provide a
more diverse variety of school choices for
From January 24-30, millions of
Americans will raise awareness about
the importance of school choice at an
unprecedented 16,140 events – including
2,057 events in Florida. These events are
planned to coincide with National School
Choice Week, the largest celebration of
opportunity in education in U.S. history.
For families in the Sunshine State,
National School Choice Week provides a
good opportunity to review the six differ-
ent types of education options available
to their children.
Floridians can choose traditional public
schools for their kids, and the state allows
parents, with some limitations, the abil-
ity to choose traditional public schools
outside of their existing school zones.
This process is called open enrollment, or
public school choice.
The Sunshine State also allows for the
creation of public charter schools, which
are tuition free public schools that are
given the freedom to be more innovative.
Magnet schools, which focus on themes
such as math, science, technology and
the performing arts, also exist.
In addition, Florida is one of 41 states
with a tuition-free online academy, allow-
ing students to go to school entirely
Of course, parents in Florida can also
send their children to private schools. The
state offers assistance, either in the for m
of scholarships or tax deductions, to quali-
Finally, parents have the freedom to
educate their children in the home – and
more parents are homeschooling their
children than ever before.
Parents who are not happy with their
children’s current schools, or would
like to explore their options, should use
January to consider the alternatives avail-
able to them. Families can use National
School Choice Week as an opportunity
to visit schools, ask lots of questions of
teachers and administrators and talk with
other parents to find a school that may
be a better fit.
Starting the school search process in
January, rather than waiting until summer
break, means that parents have more
options available to them.
Why is this process important?
In addition to ensuring greater peace
of mind, research has demonstrated
that when parents actively choose the
schools their children attend, or choose
to educate their children in the home,
high school graduation rates increase
A student with a high school diploma
will, over the course of his or her life,
earn more than a quarter million dollars
more than a student who has dropped
out. High school graduates are far less
likely to be incarcerated, and are six times
more likely to participate in community
and civic affairs, than individuals without
high school diplomas.
Most importantly, though. school
choice matters because every child in
America has potential. Today’s students
are tomorrow’s leaders and togetherP we
must do everything possible to prepare
them for success.
The Goodwill Southwest Florida
MicroEnterprise Institute is seek-
ing entrepreneurs for its upcom-
ing class, to be held in Naples on
The institute is a training program
to help emerging entrepreneurs start
new ventures and grow small busi-
nesses. Graduates complete a business
and management training course and
work with mentors who are successful
“Through this program, nearly 200
of our graduates have gone into busi-
ness, employing over 180 people,”
says Dorothy Browning, Goodwill
MicroEnterprise representative. “This
course is an opportunity for people to
The classes will be held on Monday
and Thursday evenings from 6: to 9 p.m .
and will cover topics including account-
ing to marketing, insurance and funding.
After the completion of the course, eli-
gible participants may apply for a micro-
loan collateral guarantee from Goodwill.
To apply visit www.goodwillswfl.org/
microenterprise or call 995-2106 ext.
2219. The session is $80; applicants who
meet certain income guidelines are eligible
to attend the course without cost.
Allison Sarah Hooks of Fort Myers
has graduated from the University
of North Georgia with a Bachelor
of Fine Arts in design and technology
The university’s fall commencement
ceremonies were held December 10 and
11 for more than 500 participants. In
total, UNG conferred some 782 degrees
for fall semester.
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