24 March 2010

Right To Play: Yekatit 23rd Special Needs

Clap Your Hands. Feel the Love.

Amazing. Simply put, without exaggeration: amazing. There is no better word to describe the positive work that is being done at Yekatit 23rd Special Needs Primary School with the deaf and mentally disabled. The kids are so happy and enthusiastic and the energy and tactile support that the staff members give them in return is remarkable. There is so much hand holding, hugging, singing, signing, and kisses going on that it’s easy to forget that school is in session.

At this Right To Play site, the staff takes Right To Play curriculum and tailors it specifically to the needs of its children. These students are children who have different learning styles and physical abilities than those of the kids in the mainstreamed school and the customized application and adaptations have proven to be more successful in reaching this audience.

Right To Play lessons resonate with the students at Yekatit 23rd because they have been personalized to each individuals learning requirements; teacher’s animatedly sign for the hearing impaired, hold hands to guide those that require physical support, and offer up boundless energy to keep students engaged.

Team Kickabout’s favorite example of Yekatit 23rd’s interpretation of Right To Play's pillars is its use of the “love clap.” The “love clap” is a universalRight To Play action involving a series of claps, hand gestures, and blown kisses and it is used to wrap up a session. Yekatit 23rd Special Needs Primary School , however, chooses to use it when students find themselves in a disagreement. Following a tussle, the collective group offers the “love claps” for those that fought, encouraging them to put the exchange aside because they are friends who love each other.

In standard Right To Play fashion, Yekatit 23rd then partners a “reflect and connect” talk with the “love clap,” posing the question “what can we do to prevent fighting?” Right To Play uses “reflect and connect” discussions to have students apply daily lessons 1) to events from their past, 2) to the activity of the moment, and then 3) to think about how they can use it in a situation in the future. The students at this site participate in discussion to remind themselves and each other of simple ways to avoid conflict. For most of these kids, gentle reminders serve as preventative action.

Fighting aside, this particular program site is a love fest day in and day out. The staff members here are so involved in their students’ learning and parents verbalize how much they appreciate this. The teachers are caring and it’s obvious that the children love them back.

Six months of close quartered living in a Land Cruiser? Before things get too heated, Team Kickabout will be sure to “reflect and connect” on what we’ve learned from our friends in Ethiopia and pull out the “love clap.”

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