Students taught disability awareness

A book called The Man Who Loved Clowns by June Rae Wood is a required read for eighth graders at Lincoln Middle School.

Wood wrote the fictional book based upon her experiences growing up with a disabled brother.

"Well, in the book, the main character is a 13-year-old girl, and her uncle has Down Syndrome, but I grew up with a brother who had Down Syndrome, and I was older than he was. So, I wanted my character to be a man, but I wanted her to be, you know, strongly related to him, close to him, but I was writing for kids. So, I had to have a kid character," Wood told ABC7 Chicago.

Having the author visit the school is part of its disability awareness curriculum. This is the fourth year that Lincoln Middle School has been teaching disability awareness.

Allen Josey is an eighth grade language arts and reading teacher and one of the staff members who came up with the program.

"The second year I read it with them, I had students start to ask like how can we get involved with Special Olympics? What can we do? And they really were looking for ways to serve their community," Josey said.

A walk-a thon was created to raise money for Seguin Services, a local organization serving people with disabilities. Art projects and adaptive sport activities were added to help increase awareness about people with disabilities.

Jim Haptonstahl from Seguin Services says Lincoln Middle School is a role model.

"The benefit we see is the interaction they have with the people that we serve. The eighth graders get to know them through pizza parties, through walks around the track at Morton East high school and get to really become long-term friends and supporters of the organization," he said.

Not to forget, this is the future generation.

"These are the future landlords, the future employers, the future co-workers, the future friends of people with disabilities," Haptonstahl said.

For student Antonio Santos, the experiences goes a long way.

"My favorite thing would be just supporting them in a way that we could help them, you know. It makes me feel good that we could help them in a way to raise money for them," he said.

"They are really looking to give, and a lot of the students really go above and beyond what we expect," Josey said.

Seguin Services, with help from Lincoln Middle School, has created a teacher's guide on disability awareness that is designed for middle school students.

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