This past week marks the end of a month of visits from local schools to Christian Opportunity Center (COC).  Approximately 180 children from Knoxville Northstar Elementary, Lynnville-Sully School District, and Pella Christian High School took time to visit COC and interact with individuals with disabilities.  Creating opportunities for children to interact with people with disabilities positively is beneficial to everyone.  Many times, people can unconsciously act differently around people with disabilities, simply since they have never had this opportunity.  Creating these opportunities for interactions for the children in our communities could help them to learn at an early age to look beyond a person’s disabilities. 

Lynnville Sully students try to do everyday tasks in a wheelchair.

Visits with Knoxville 5th graders and Lynnville-Sully 6th graders consisted of learning about COC services, disability stimulation stations, interacting with Life Skills Program, a short tour of a residential home, and a Q/A session with people with disabilities.  Disability simulations give the kids a small glimpse of what it is like to manage some of the challenges that people with disabilities deal with on a daily basis.  Some of the simulations included maneuvering a wheelchair, using adaptive equipment, and practicing communicating with a person with communication disabilities.  Some of the stimulations may seem silly and frustrating to the kids, and it was vital for them to understand that they could walk away from these challenges at any time, that is not an option for a person with disabilities.

Students from Knoxville and Lynnville-Sully also learned about person-first language, the practice of identifying the person before their disability, i.e., a person with an intellectual disability.  The children were also warned that certain words that used to be medical terminology to describe a person with intellectual disabilities, like the word retarded (referred to as the “R” word) are now considered to be an insult and not a true representation of a person with intellectual disabilities.  The children were encouraged to stop using the “R” word, and encourage friends and family members to join them.

PC Art Teacher, Joe Hokesbergen (left) and Mike Cossolotto enjoy an afternoon of art.

PC HighSchool students visit took a different spin on interacting with individuals with disabilities.  PCHS Art Teacher, Joe Hoksbergern and his Winterim students came to COC bearing pastels, paper, and a willingness to make new friends.  The PCHS students and the people COC supports spent an afternoon creating art together and getting to know each other. COC is consistently looking for ways to engage the people we support with new experiences and ways to express themselves, this interaction with PCHS Art Wintertirm Class was an excellent opportunity to do both.

COC welcomes any student group or school who has an interest in visiting COC to contact the Public Information Director for more information at 1-641-628-1162, ext. 105.