For Educators

Living with Special Needs – Background


In this lesson plan, elementary students develop an understanding of what it means to live with limiting physical conditions, such as impaired hearing, and other disabilities, such as dyslexia. Using various resources, including video segments from Religion & Ethics, books, Web sites, and polls and interviews with classmates and community members, students explore different perspectives on disabilities, including issues of access and inclusion. As a culminating activity, students create an awareness campaign related to disabilities.

Note: To invite family participation and alert parents and guardians to their children’s possible concerns around the issue of disabilities, a letter can be sent home. A sample letter to parents is provided; it may be adapted or used as is.

Grade Level:

Grades 3-5, with adaptations for younger children

Time Allotment:

1-2 weeks.

Note: This lesson can carry over anywhere from a few days to two weeks, depending on the level of interest and commitment to the topic.

Subject Matter:

This topic offers tie-ins to many curriculum areas: social studies/history (leaders and public figures with disabilities; the history of how societies have treated those with disabilities); science/health (causes and effects of disabilities); mathematics (collecting and tabulating data, understanding statistics); and language arts (interviewing; writing personal, factual, and opinion essays).

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Demonstrate understanding of a range of disabilities, including physical disabilities and learning disabilities.
  • Name at least three types of disabilities.
  • For each type of disability named, identify two effects on the individuals who have them and two ways society helps and supports these individuals.
  • Articulate ideas and explore ethical and moral issues related to society’s treatment of the disabled.
  • Identify at least three things that they themselves can do to help and support people with disabilities.


This lesson was prepared by: Kathleen Cochran, Ed.M.