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‘We All Learn Differently Olympics’ held at Fayetteville Elementary

Occupational therapist Teresa Wildhack demonstrates a “squiggle pen” with Karina Balian (left, fourth grade) and Katyanna Noble (fourth grade). The pen is an exercise for students working on their fine motor skills.

Occupational therapist Teresa Wildhack demonstrates a “squiggle pen” with Karina Balian (left, fourth grade) and Katyanna Noble (fourth grade). The pen is an exercise for students working on their fine motor skills. Provided

— What is it like for a child to navigate a wheelchair through a cluttered classroom? How would it feel to not hear everything your teacher said?

Students at Fayetteville Elementary School in the Fayetteville-Manlius School District found out during the “We All Learn Differently Olympics” (WALDO). It was held at the school Nov. 29 and 30.

Third and fourth grade students participated in a variety of activities designed to give them a glimpse into the life of fellow students who may learn or experience things differently than themselves. WALDO is held every other year in the school and is organized by physical education teachers Laurie Valentine and Matt Murphy.

“We want WALDO to create an awareness of disabilities. It is about having a conversation and creating respect among all of the students,” Murphy said.

As students progressed through six stations in the gym, they were given opportunities to experience parts of their normal school day as some of their peers do. They also received an activity book with a different page referencing each of the stations.

“The students went through authentic challenges that other students face,” Valentine said.

The six stations had participants:

—Navigate a wheelchair around desks;

—Read a passage with letter reversals and spacing errors;

—Learn about food allergies;

—Wear goggles to simulate blurred vision;

—Discover how listening impacts writing and language; and

—Attempt to throw a ball or walk while off-balance.

“The point of the day is not to have students feel sorry for other students,” Murphy said. “It is to have them embrace that people learn differently. We hope they will be better able to interact with each other.”

School counselor Bob Baker will follow up with students in the classroom to discuss what they learned and to answer questions.

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