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March 2017

Playa del Carmen

Disabilities Workshop

Deliver a workshop on disabilities at Save the Children Ludoteca, Corazones and Contando
con un Amigo to raise awareness amongst the children of four internationally-recognized

As World Down Syndrome Day takes place on March 21, we decided to dedicate the month
of March to disability awareness. At GVI Playa, the topic of disabilities is particularly close
one to our hearts because of our work with Centro de Atencin Integral (or Escuelita)
where we support children with a wide range of disabilities every day. All volunteers worked
together to produce a two-hour long workshop on four key disabilities, including discussion
and activities, which we delivered at Save the Children Ludoteca, Corazones and Contando
con un Amigo.

Figure 1. Kids at Fundacin contando con un amigo

Our first step to create the workshop was to research about four types of disability that we
wanted to teach to the children: Autism, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy and Paralysis.
In this order we organized our presentation, which went through simple facts and statistics
about each type of condition. The age range of the children varies between the different pro-
jects, starting from 3 years old and to up to 14 years old, we worked to ensure nothing was
overly-complicated and the facts were presented clearly. We decided to focus on the physical
manifestations of each disability, and how a person with a given disability might feel in cer-
tain situations. In this way we felt that all of the children could connect with our topic, both
on an emotional level and through their own visual experience of seeing people with disabili-

Figure 2. Fabiana and Scarlett on Down Syndrome Day

From the beginning of our presentation, we stressed that people with disabilities are people
first and foremost. We were happy to see that the children appreciated this, and some enthusi-
astically offered this point of view even before being prompted.
Then, taking each disability in turn, we spoke about the wide variety of signs and symptoms
that can be exhibited. We asked the children if they had seen people with these disabilities
before. The children at Corazones and STC Ludoteca chatted freely about members of the
public they might have seen on the bus on the way to school, and members of their own com-
munities with Down syndrome. We noted that the children at Contando seemed to have the
least experience of seeing or interacting with people with disabilities.
We showed the children pictures of each disability, which illustrated how varied the different
physical symptoms can be. We spoke about the successes of people with disabilities, and
gave examples of famous actors with Down Syndrome and Paralympians.

Figure 3 Volunteers preparing the activities for kids at Save the Children ludoteca

We divided the presentation into digestible sections with three activity breaks. These helped
to keep the childrens focus by allowing them to run around, work together and further under-
stand each of the topics.
The aim of the first activity break was to get the children to experience the frustration of cop-
ing with a cognitive disability. Two of the older children were asked to complete multiplica-
tions and divisions whilst the rest of the class made as much noise as possible to try and dis-
tract them. Then all of the children were divided into pairs and instructed to communicate us-
ing only three words. These tasks demonstrated the discomfort you can feel with hypersensi-
tivity and the challenges of non-verbal communication.
The second activity break was designed to reveal how isolating it can feel to live with a disa-
bility. We stuck post-it notes to the childrens foreheads, each with a different geometric
shape then instructed the children to communicate with each other and organize themselves
into groups depending on their shape.
At each project, we carefully chose one of the more confident children to wear a shape that
was different to everyone elses. And so, they would be left alone. After the activity, we dis-
cussed how that person felt to be left out and we were pleased to see how all the children
agreed on the importance of not discriminated against.
The third activity break required the most moving around, which was good to keep the chil-
drens focus towards the end of a two-hour session. Its aim was to get the children to experi-
ence the challenges of living with a physical disability, such as paralysis. First, the childrens
hands were tied with cloth and they were asked to draw a picture. Then, they were told to
race across the floor while being seated, without using their arms or their legs. Finally the
children played a short game of football, but only on one leg. These tasks arent impossible,

but theyre difficult, which encourages the children to think creatively about different ways
they can use their bodies, to compensate for a particular limitation.

The success of doing these activities with the children led to the overall success of the work-
shop at each project. They generated a variety of emotional responses and some good discus-
sions. We were particularly impressed with the children at Corazones for their insightful
comments and participation.
I think the most important achievement this month was the unanimous acceptance by the
children of our overall message in this workshop: that as people, our equality is important be-
cause we all have the same rights and it is unfair to discriminate against someone because of
their appearance or their abilities. Furthermore, the children agreed that if we have the good
fortune to know someone with special needs, we should always try to offer them our friend-
ship, support and acceptance as our peers and our equals.

For more information on the projects here in Mexico, visit: