|UND Rehab Club talks through puppets|
Students in the University Rehab Club are taking puppets into the classroom to teach children about disabilities. Since 2002, students majoring in rehabilitation and human services wanted to provide disability-related education and service to the local community. The Rehab Club was formed and a new educational tool was created to not only enhance the students’ educational experience, but to teach children, at a very early age, tolerance, understanding, and sensitivity.
“Research has shown us that children’s attitudes are formed at an early age,” said David Perry, professor and co-chair for the Department of Counseling, and coordinator of the rehabilitation and human services program. “We hope to teach them that just because someone has a disability, they are really just like any of us. They like to hang out with their friends, they dance or play an instrument, but yet there is just something unique about them. The earlier a child learns tolerance, the more understanding they will have in an unfamiliar situation.”
The Rehab Club is open to all students, not just those in the major, but anyone interested in working with people with disabilities. The puppeteers have appeared in several schools, mostly working with kindergarten through second or third graders, teaching, talking and learning about what it means to have a disability and how it affects a child’s life.
The half-hour program includes a reading of "A Very Special Critter," from Mercer Mayer's Little Critter series, four different puppet stories and a question and answer period. The current puppets include one without an arm, a puppet with a hearing loss, one who has a visual impairment, and one who uses a wheelchair. Ricky the Raccoon is hearing impaired, but he plays basketball at his high school and will be going to UND next year. He and the others help children to understand that while a disability may make a child different, that child also has talents and interests just like every other child.
“Children are, inherently, so full of life and energy, and the feeling that anything is possible,” said Perry. “This is the best time to teach them, when they are young, and they will grow into young adults who are understanding and tolerant.”
The method of using puppets to teach children about disabilities is being used throughout the country, as part of a national program called Kids on the Block. The Rehab Club has taken the original idea one step further. The students write their own scripts, find their own puppets, and perform the show all on their own. In one instance, a graduate student wrote a rap song, to engage the children.
Anyone interested in learning more about the program is encouraged to contact Dr. Perry at 777-3757 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The rehabilitation and human service program is housed within the Department of Counseling in the College of Education and Human Development, which works to foster healthy human development and learning across the lifespan, and actively embraces human and cultural diversity. The program is designed to prepare students for careers which will enhance the independence and integration of persons with physical, learning, psychiatric, cognitive, and addiction disabilities.
For more information, contact Jena Pierce, director of Alumni Relations and Development, 777-0844 phone, 777-4393 fax, or email@example.com, College of Education and Human Development.