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Beline Obeid

North students raise disability awareness

Poupard Elementary School third grader, Ato Zajhia, blindfolded, fumbles through a container of socks and attempts to match pairs based on similar traits and characteristics, as his fellow classmates look on. The classmates are: Deondre West, Theodore Marshall, Mikayla Schiller, Kameron Bryant and Aaron Mitchell. Grosse Pointe North High School senior, Tayler Scherrill holds the container. Photo by Renee Landuyt
January 31, 2013
Wearing a blindfold, Ato Zajhia fumbled through a small Sterilite storage container of socks, relying on his sense of touch to feel around for buttons and other discernable traits to find as many matching pairs as possible in the time allotted.

“It’s not so easy, is it,” said Tayler Scherrill, a senior at Grosse Pointe North High School who, along with five other students from North’s applied medical research class, conducted a disability awareness workshop for third graders at Poupard Elementary School Monday, Jan. 11.

For the high schoolers, the workshop was part of a physiology project, where the different groups of students in Sue Speirs’s class were asked to come up with an activity teaching others about the body or the brain. Scherrill, Alexandria Thomas, Daija Todd, Lauren McLeod, Darrel Harper and Dakari Smith elected to give back to the community by raising awareness to special needs.

“It’s something that you deal with everyday,” said Scherrill, adding that other groups held blood drives, fundraisers and other activities. “Even in our high school, we have kids with disabilities in our class. You know, when you’re younger, you don’t want them making fun of them or thinking they’re different or anything. They just learn differently.”

The workshop consisted of three stations inside Poupard’s gymnasium, one of which focused on autism, another on blindness and the last on dyslexia. To provide the best learning experience for the third graders, Thomas said, the six students researched each disability, looking for the most practical and relatable discussions and activities.

Lessons and activities ranged from math problems, the numbers written backward, and reading, whole words and letters missing from the story, for dyslexia; to an autism lesson of handwriting while wearing gloves and mittens, making a necklace, also while wearing gloves and mittens, and listening to a story while students screamed and attempted other distractions; to playing tic-tac-toe, navigating through a maze using a walking stick and matching socks, all while blindfolded.

“So, people who are blind, they have different methods to do that,” Scherrill said. “Say, like finding their money, they might have to fold it a certain way, or to walk somewhere, they memorize the route and they use the stick to get there.”

“And they sew buttons on, so when they try to match it, they just feel for the right button that matches,” added McLeod.

As the time expired on Zajhia’s turn, he lifted the blindfold, a smile on his face. He looked in the container where the numerous socks remained, scattered and unpaired.

“That was hard,” he said.

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