This article appeared in the Fall 2022 issue of Abilities Digest.
If you are going to use a disability simulation with Scouts to promote understanding and inclusion, the most important part comes after the actual experience. Reflection discussions connect the experiences of the simulation to the Scout’s own life.
The depth of the reflection changes as a child grows. For our youngest Cubs in Kindergarten through 2nd grade, it is hard to do the abstract thinking it takes to connect an experience to a general outlook towards people. Children this age naturally care about the people they know and see all the time like family members and schoolmates, so reflections need to talk about people they know. An advantage of this age is that children are open about asking questions themselves. Sandy Payne of Connecticut Rivers Council suggests asking them about their older relatives to make connections to physical limitations that come with aging. At this age, appropriate questions would be:
- How did you learn by doing this (simulation)?
- What is a nice thing you could do for someone like this?
Older Cubs and Webelos from 3rd to 5th grade are still pretty unfiltered, but that leaves them open to learning. You can ask more thoughtful questions, like:
- How did you feel while you were doing this (simulation)?
- When you were doing the challenge task, did you want to be helped or to do it by yourself?
- Is there something about you that makes it harder to do certain things than most people?
Scouts from 6th to 8th grades are at an age where they become more self-conscious and more hesitant about asking questions or asking for help. Questions more appropriate for this age are:
- How did people treat you when they thought you were disabled?
- Did people who intended to help you do what you needed them to do or not?
- If you had more time, what tricks would you have tried to make things easier for you?
- How do you show respect to people with disabilities?
At high school age, youth talk freely with each other but keep more of their thoughts to themselves. Candidly, at this age there may be better ways to build awareness and inclusion than a simulation activity. It is a bit harder to get the ball rolling for a reflection discussion but you can ask fairly deep questions, like:
- When you need help from others, what are the best ways to get the kind of help you need?
- When you are leading a team, how can you take advantage of the strengths a person with a disability has?
- If you could change things at your school to make things better for people with disabilities, what would you do?
- How do you adjust for your own limitations in ability? How is that different from what you would do with a disability?
- Have you ever been amazed at something a person with a disability has done? Why?
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