Cleveland Volunteers Finds Ways To Include Children With Disabilities During Holidays

Michelle Dunphy recently wrote about her dissatisfaction with the Madison School Board, which recently voted to implement a whopping $4 million on special-needs programming. While that might sound like a giant step in the right direction, it isn’t. That’s because the programming isn’t built around personalized interviews or education, but on segregated programming specifically for these kids. It means they’ll be segregated from other kids.

Dunphy notes, “Over 30 years of research on special-needs education has shown that segregating students is detrimental to their development. While a full-time inclusive classroom may not be right for every student, being around peers is crucial to social-emotional development.”

She goes on to say that the special needs community as a whole was not in favor of the decision, nor was their input really heard or considered before the board made its choice.

This is a stark contrast to a current holiday gathering in Cleveland, where volunteers for Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center helped to modify toys in order for special needs kids to be comfortable with them.

And the event wasn’t only about kids with behavioral disabilities either — it was about everyone who might have a tough time playing with the same toys beloved by other kids.

One of the volunteers, Ethan Timar, said, “Solder different wires so that the people with disabilities can do it because they can’t move the switch, they can push a bigger button so they can do it easier.”

Farrah Howard, another volunteer, said, “I hadn’t really thought much about how a child with a disability may or may not be able to enjoy a Christmas gift or a birthday gift or just a toy on any given day because they can’t use it so this is definitely an eye opener for me.”

The event was organized by RePlay for Kids, which has conducted at least 140 such workshops. Biomedical engineer Bill Memberg thought about this decades ago: “There was an ad in the Plain Dealer from the Cuyahoga County Board of Disabilities,” he said. “So, it sounded like a fun activity, and I had some time available…We bring the toys and tools and instructions to wherever their location is, so it’s pretty easy to do.”

Almost 2,000 of the modified toys have been donated to children who want them. Howard said, “It’s really giving me an extra boost because I know I am putting some smiles on people’s faces and I’m kind of amazing that I’ll be able to do it.”