EASTCHESTER, N.Y. – In an effort to help their youngest students understand the struggles their peers with disabilities face each day, the William E. Cottle Elementary School has introduced the Building Bridges program, featuring activities and guest speakers.
Last week, officials with the Tuckahoe School District introduced the program, which includes interactive classroom activities and guest speakers with the intention of teaching kindergarten through fifth graders about what it’s like to be a person with “different abilities.”
Each grade level was given an age appropriate activity to help them understand the difficulties. Kindergarteners were given a broad overview of disabilities, first graders learned about blindness and second graders were educated about deafness, hearing and speech impairments.
Older students in third grade will focus on Down Syndrome and autism, while fourth graders discuss physical disabilities and fifth graders hold a discussion about learning disabilities.
Guest speakers included paralympian Dennis Oehler, Alan Gunzberg, of the Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation and his dog, Kili, Foundation Fighting Blindness Events Manager Jennifer Geider and Carole Moscowitz, who has taught American Sign Language for more than a decade.
The Building Bridges program was organized and arranged by the Special Education PTA, under the watchful guise of co-chairs Tara Zegers and Maria Cocucci.
“Tuckahoe’s children are amazing and this is a place where every child is treated with respect, caring, empathy and compassion, without regard to ability,” Zegers said. “There is quite simply no better place to do this and we are very excited to have the opportunity to be a part of this great initiative.”
Cocucci noted that the Building Bridges program is simply continuing the tradition of Tuckahoe students respecting their peers under any circumstance.
“The children in Tuckahoe are unique and have consistently embraced their peers with different abilities, without judgment,” she said. “This program is another way to reinforce the idea that all people have the same social needs and feelings. They help children realize that these differences are not a barrier to friendship.”
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