Students learning about disabilities first-hand, prevents bullying

Program is a weapon against bullying, principal said.

Students in the Kids First program at Reagan Elementary in Cedar Park learn what it is like to live with a disability, like Dyslexia. Photo: Frank Martinez, KXAN

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Up for a challenge?

Try using a mirror to trace letters and numbers upside down, while staying within the lines.

“It’s hard to do,” said one second grader to his teacher at Reagan Elementary in Cedar Park.

The task is used to prove Dyslexia is hard.

All of the school’s second graders are part of the “Kids First” program. It is a PTA-sponsored lesson that shows students how disabilities, like ADHD, mobility challenges and autism, affect the people who have them.

Another challenge the students took: Stuff a marshmallow in your mouth and speak to a friend. Can they understand you?

It shows children what it is like living with a severe speech impediment.

“I got a little frustrated. Cause kids with Autism and all of that get frustrated too,” said student Violet Wroblewski. “But, it’s just how life is.”

The school said a strong of understanding of disabilities is a weapon against bullying. It also teaches able-bodied children how they can help students with disabilities, said Heather Martinez, a parent at the school, whose son has autism.

“He uses a device to communicate with, so he’s not able to be verbal yet,” Martinez said. Martinez said most of her son’s classmates are patient with him and respectful of his disability, for now. “As they get older, it’s easier to pull away from things you don’t know. I feel like targeting younger children helps.”

School leaders said the Kids First program is a first for Leander Independent School District. While it currently is only offered for second graders, Reagan Elementary plans to expand it to all grades next year.

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