KATONAH, N.Y. -- Katonah-Lewisboro’s second- and fifth-grade students learned important skills like tolerance, patience and acceptance during the Special Education PTA’s 16th annual Differences Day, held at each elementary school from Wednesday through Friday.
The event included a series of hands-on activities designed to simulate visual, auditory, speech and motor impairments, as well as learning differences. The purpose of the program, which is organized entirely by SEPTA parents and volunteers, is to help students better understand the challenges faced by children with special needs.
“Differences Day is one of the most wonderful events we host each year,” said Meadow Pond Elementary School Principal Carolann Castellano, who made note of the hard work the volunteers had put into organizing the activities at each school.
Students engaged in activities such as the physical impairment and gross/fine motor impairments station, where they attempted to navigate a wheelchair while bouncing a basketball or use a walker while carrying a cafeteria tray full of food.
At the blind and visual impairment station, they wore special goggles and tried to pass a soccer ball. They also were introduced to Braille and raised text.
Other stations included the learning differences station, the speech and communication impairments station and deafness and hearing impairments station.
“I appreciate these disabilities more now,” said fifth-grade student Mia Holbrook. “It’s cool to know what life is like for people who can’t hear the doorbell. They have to work harder.”
At Increase Miller Elementary School’s Differences Day on Nov. 18, John Jay High School students from the building’s A World of Difference Club aided the elementary students at each station.
Naomi Heftler, SEPTA’s chairperson for Differences Day, said the activities are designed to give students a feel for the challenges some of their peers face, albeit in a fun and less stressful environment.
“They really get a lot of it,” she said. “The response is always very positive.”