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A Touch of Understanding and Education

  • Synopsis: Published: 2011-10-05 - A Touch of Understanding provides disability awareness programs designed to educate new generations with understanding of challenges associated with disabilities. For further information pertaining to this article contact: Wendy Taormina-Weiss.

Main Document

A Touch of Understanding is an organization whose mission is to provide disability awareness programs that are designed to educate new generations with an understanding of the challenges associated with disabilities.

The organization strives to give students the capability to accept and respect all individuals, despite ability. A Touch of Understanding (ATOU) is a nonprofit organization made up of dedicated people, some of whom have disabilities, some of whom do not, who work together as a strong team to help students look beyond disability, a wheelchair, braces, or unpredictable behavior in order to see the person.

ATOU was incorporated in the year 1996 with dedicated volunteers. The program is geared towards students from elementary to high school ages. Mainstreaming and full-inclusion are more prevalent with all students, able-bodied and disabled, needing to recognize their common humanity, feelings, and desires. Every year ATOU speaks to around four-thousand students in the Greater Sacramento area of California.

Every one of the students they instruct participates in a two-part program involving the following:

  • An activity portion of ATOU's program, where students use mobility canes and wheelchairs, handle braces and artificial limbs, write in Braille, and participate in mirror-writing so they may understand the frustration of a learning disability.
  • Students also meet with ATOU volunteers who have disabilities and share their experiences and insight with honesty and a sense of humor.

ATOU's program works by turning negative attitudes into positive ones while facilitating stronger interpersonal skills among the students involved. Attitudes improve as respectful interactions increase. Comments from students after the presentations remind parents, students, and ATOU just how important their work is.

"You taught me to not stare at people with disabilities and to care for them. Because sometime I might have a disability."- Elementary school student

"Thank you for giving us the gift of your time. I learned a lot. One thing I learned was to respect people with disabilities. My brother has high order autism and my family teats him the same but when we go to the store everyone points and stares. They just won't take the time to listen. He does everything I can just differently. He even goes to different countries websites and learns their language! "- Elementary school student

'Treat Others as You Would Like to be Treated'"If you are not exposed to people with disabilities, when you see them you feel curious and scared. Even if you want to approach them you don't know how to act. It's important for kids to realize that they are people just like them and to experience interactions with them to gain a level of comfort. My daughter's participating in the program lead to some insightful conversations in our home. Thank you!"- Elementary school parent

"She will know how to accept and behave around individuals with disabilities. Thank you! I think other children just don't know how to act around others with disabilities and this program brought real people and stories to clear things up."- Elementary school parent

Involving A Touch of Understanding in Your School

Teachers or the Principal of a school can visit the A Touch of Understanding website and view a nine-minute video giving them an overview of the organization's program. On the site they can also read testimonials from not only other teachers and administrators, but from parents and students themselves. While visiting the ATOU website, teachers or a Principal can learn a great deal about the program, although it is always best to call the organization and discuss ways to work with them to bring A Touch of Understanding to your school. Scheduling and cost are determined for each individual school based upon the number of students who will participate, as well as the time and space available.

A Touch of Understanding estimates the cost of a presentation for forty students to be $2,000. Through the organization, ATOU solicits enough money to bring the cost of a presentation down to $480 for forty students. ATOU is eager to help school personnel. Here are some suggested ways to achieve funding to bring A Touch of Understanding to your school:

  • Grants
  • Rotary
  • Social Clubs
  • Individual Contributions
  • Soroptimist www.soroptimist.org/
  • Lions www.lionsclubs.org/EN/index.php
  • Kiwanis sites.kiwanis.org/kiwanis/en/home.aspx
  • Fund raising or sponsorship through Parent-Teacher Organizations

Volunteer Opportunities at ATOU

Students and prostheticsThe team of volunteers from A Touch of Understanding travels to schools in Placer Counter and throughout the greater Sacramento, California area. They bring hands-on disability awareness to students through a core program. The program involves a three hour presentation. The presentation gives students the opportunity to experience what it might be like to have a form of disability, or simply to be a little different.

The volunteers for ATOU are absolutely essential. Three to five volunteer speakers and four to eight volunteer activity instructors are involved in every school program the organization presents. ATOU has a number of volunteer opportunities you can participate in.

Program Speakers: Program speakers are individuals with disabilities who share their personal stories, interacting with students and offering new perspectives and insight through honesty and humor.

Activity Instructors: Activity instructors are individuals who help students with program activities. They interact with students while guiding them through activities at every station. Many instructors assist with uploading and setup of presentation equipment.

Professionals: Professionals are members of the local community who offer services on a pro bono basis, assisting ATOU with accounting, graphic arts, technical support, legal services and more.

Special Event Participants: Special event participants may be volunteers who assist with public relations, drivers for speakers with disabilities, they may help with fund raising events, community events, fairs, and more.

A Touch of Understanding is always seeking committed volunteers to help with weekly presentations and additional events throughout the year. Volunteers are the heart of ATOU and the organization always welcomes new people. Volunteering for A Touch of Understanding is a wonderful way to give back to the community - www.touchofunderstanding.org





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