- Associated Press - Friday, October 2, 2015

ELKHART, Ind. (AP) - The way we treat people matters.

That’s the lesson Mary Yoder Holsopple, bullying prevention coordinator for Elkhart Community Schools, hopes students and staff take away from her work.

She communicates that message daily through her work with the school district, where she aims to establish a culture of respect and empathy among the schools. Most recently, she communicated the message through booklets she co-authored for K-12 classrooms that teach students how to respect individuals with disabilities.

The books, called “More Class Meetings That Matter: Respecting People with Disabilities,” cover topics such as disability awareness, people-first language and how to respond when people with disabilities are being mistreated by others.

Holsopple worked with three other individuals - Matthew Harrington, Marlene Snyder and Jan Urbanski - to develop the books, which are adapted for different age groups.

More than 600 of the books were then donated to the district by LOGAN Community Resources, the South Bend-based organization that developed the books. If classrooms were to purchase the 610 books at face value, the cost would have been $11,521.60. The 610-book donation means all Elkhart teachers will be given a copy to use in their classrooms.

The booklets are endorsed by the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, which Elkhart schools uses to teach students appropriate behavior in school hallways, classrooms, playgrounds, lunchrooms and other areas where students gather.

“This is what I did on snow days, and there were plenty of those because the books are done,” Holsopple said, joking about how the district had five snow days and many more two-hour delays during the 2014-15 school year.

She said she was connected with the booklets’ other collaborators through Olweus. Her conversations with them prompted her to start thinking about what other resources are available.

“I realized that there’s not too much available in terms of educating students about disabilities and how to interact and respect other people with disabilities,” Holsopple said.

So she endeavored to change that.

The book covers lessons like using people-first language through activities like “Say This, Not That.” Rather than calling someone a “disabled person,” it’s more respectful to say “person with disabilities.” People-first language avoids dehumanizing the individuals being spoken about, because it does not reduce their entire identity to one characteristic.

Holsopple said the book also discusses that not all disabilities can be identified just by looking at someone - people can have disabilities, yet not need a wheelchair or a cane.

“What you’ll find is that people are generally kind and accommodating to people with visible disabilities, but not so much when their disabilities are invisible, like with autism spectrum disorder or attention deficit disorder,” she said.

The books also tie into her position as bullying prevention coordinator, as research shows children with disabilities are two to three times more likely to be bullied than their peers.

When asked what she hopes students will take away from her books, she said, “That’s simple: that it matters the way we treat people. We can all learn a thing or two about treating people with more empathy and respect.”

___

Source: The Elkhart Truth: https://bit.ly/1WAr2Ky

___

Information from: The Elkhart Truth, https://www.elkharttruth.com

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide