Individuals with disabilities like to celebrate bowling a strike with a high five — just like anyone else.
And just like anyone else, they like to boast about their favorite team winning the Super Bowl or tease you if you’re a fan of the losing team.
These are just some of the lessons learned by students and staff of Northridge Middle School during the school’s annual Ability Day on March 13.
The school has been recognizing Disability Awareness Month for six years by partnering with organizations like ADEC so students have a chance to get to know individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Ability Day started when school staff realized students weren’t quite sure how to interact with students in the functional needs classroom.
In the beginning, individuals from ADEC were invited to the school to chat with Northridge students — but the environment was too formal and students had trouble connecting with the people served by ADEC on a personal level.
In future years, the school started coordinating Ability Day activities at locations throughout the county, like Signature Lanes in Elkhart. Every since then, Northridge students and individuals from ADEC have spent time each year getting to know each other over a friendly game of bowling.
“I want to thank Northridge for doing this every year and always including us,” said Becky Curtis, activity coordinator for ADEC. “It’s wonderful to see them talk with each other and high five. They learn that they all share common ground, whether it’s a sports team or a favorite movie.”
Randy Deshone, assistant principal at Northridge, said his students talk for weeks about how much fun they had during Ability Day.
“Our kids learn that people with disabilities are good people and they have a meaningful experience with them,” he said. “They learn that people with disabilities live life and experience joy, just like anyone else.”
Although the students have fun bowling on Ability Day, Deshone said it is also a great learning experience for the middle schoolers.
“The students are always asking after Ability Day what they can do in the future to get involved with people with disabilities, and that’s one thing I find very positive about it,” he said. “Students want to dedicate their lives to these types of activities and experiences.”