One way to encourage kids to understand living with a disability is to ask them to think about themselves, according to Easter Seals. Remind them that everyone is unique and that each person has things that they are really good at and other areas where they have to try harder. Having a disability shouldn't automatically exclude someone from participating or having friends.
Sighted Guide Activity
With the help of the kids, create a path using duct tape. Rearrange furniture or desks to make narrow spots. Split the kids into pairs, with one child blindfolded and her partner acting as a guide. Have them follow the path, with the blindfolded child holding her partner's arm, just above the elbow. Her guide should walk about a half step ahead of the blindfolded child, at a normal pace. The guide needs to describe the room around them, mentioning any upcoming obstacles or steps. Whenever they approach a narrow spot, have the guide drop her arm and move it behind her back, signaling to her partner that it's time to step behind her. Have them switch roles. Afterward, ask the kids to discuss how it felt to play each role. If there was a mishap, how did the blindfolded child and the guide each feel about what happened?
To help students understand the difficulty of communicating experienced by some people with autism, have the kids split up into pairs. A child with autism may have difficulty focusing on a conversation or taking his turn in one. Have one partner tell the second person what he did on the weekend. Instead of responding on topic, have the second partner talk about a television show or video game. Let the conversation -- or lack thereof -- continue for a couple of minutes. Get the group back together and ask how it felt to carry on a conversation with someone who wasn't on topic and didn't seem interested. Discuss how to be polite but direct when trying to direct the conversation. Let the students roleplay how they can take charge and redirect the topic, such as by saying "Let me tell you about my weekend, then we can talk about what was on TV last night."
Focusing with Autism
Some people with autism are extra sensitive to background noise and movement. This can make it hard for them to focus on a conversation. Have the kids get into groups of five, with each person having a different role. The first person is the person pretending to have autism. His job is to try and listen to what person five is reading. Person two stands behind person one, rubbing cloth or heavy paper against the back of his neck. Person three loudly reads another book, leaning close to person one. Person four should pat person one on the head and shoulder continuously. Person five uses a normal voice to read a paragraph to the first person, then asks questions about the content. It's important that person five doesn't try to read loudly. Have everyone switch roles so each child has a chance to be person one. Ask them how it felt and if they were able to concentrate on, or even hear, the paragraph being read.
To teach kids about the difficulties experienced by someone who doesn't hear, you'll need ear plugs for each child and a continuous white noise for the background, like a fan or radio. Have them put in the ear plugs and then tune the radio into a spot between stations or put on a TV station without reception so there is just static. Turn the sound up high. Now read a newspaper or magazine article to the kids. Vary your voice by mumbling, reading quickly, throwing in pauses in odd places and droning on in a monotone. Ask them five questions about what you read and then continue to talk to them quickly in a soft mumble. Get them to take out the ear plugs. Discuss how it felt to hear unclearly and ask them to imagine how it feels to go through every day like that.