Posted in Classroom Guidance Lessons

Celebrating Differences – Learning About Disabilities

My district does a great job with inclusion, but with this comes many accommodations that some of my students had a hard time understanding. They would say “it’s not fair” and “why do they get to do that?” when certain students were allowed more time to complete tests or allowed to have different seating arrangements in their classroom. Some students felt that they got in trouble with their teacher a lot, but didn’t behave as poorly as one of their peers (who unbeknownst to them has a disability). This got me to thinking of how I might address equity versus equality and to help students understand what disabilities are and to view disabilities in a positive light. I don’t know that this lesson fixed all of the problems at our school surrounding this topic, but many teachers recognized a change in our school and that our kids were more empathetic, patient, and understanding with their peers. I went back and forth on this lesson as I wanted to give this topic the immense respect it deserves and I am by no means an expert, but it is a lesson that I reference back to time and time again. I would love to hear activities and initiatives that are used at your school to celebrate differences, further education on this topic, and support students with disabilities! Please share your ideas in the comment section below!

Lesson Title: Celebrating Differences – Learning About Disabilities (2 day series)

Grade(s): K-5

ASCA Standards:

  • PS:A2.3 Recognize, accept, respect and appreciate individual differences
  • PS:B1.7 Demonstrate a respect and appreciation for individual and cultural differences

Learning Objectives:

  • Students will be able to define disability and list three disabilities
  • Students will understand equality versus equity
  • Students will understand the value of differences and diversity



Day 1: Start by asking students to raise their hand if the following is true for them and to look around the room to see how many of their peers this is true for:

  • You have brown eyes
  • You have blue eyes
  • You have black hair
  • You have blonde hair
  • You are good at math
  • You are good at science
  • You like macaroni and cheese
  • You like brussel sprouts


  • What would it be like if we were all the same?
    • It would be boring
    • We wouldn’t know each other apart
    • We would have less options (only certain foods at the grocery store, etc.)
  • Can being different be fun? How about scary?
    • Being different is fun because you are unique and people pay attention to you
    • Being different can be scary because people may stare at you and you may be afraid that people will make fun of you
  • How can we celebrate each other’s differences?
    • Learn about one another and show interest in them
    • Respect each other
    • Not stare at people
    • Recognize people’s strengths and weaknesses

Explain that today we are going to be learning about one kind of difference called a disability. A disability is a physical (body) or mental (brain) condition that limits a person’s movements, senses, or activities. A few examples of disabilities are blindness, deafness, autism, down syndrome, and more! It is important to know that even if two people have the same disability, they may be very different from one another because we are all special and unique people! Sometimes we think that having a disability is a bad thing, but disabilities are actually something that make us different, special, and can even help us think in different ways in a way that is a huge strength.  


  • Is having a disability a bad thing?
    • No, having a disability makes us special and unique! Sometimes having a disability requires us to overcome certain things. For example, our friends who are blind need to learn how to use a walking stick or how to use a guide dog. People with deafness may need to learn sign language. And people with a learning disability, which is when learning certain subjects might be extra tricky, may need to learn tricks to help them or they may need to learn things in a different way. When asked if individuals with disabilities would like to live without their disability, many people would say no because it is a part of them and they would not be the same person that they are now!
    • Having a disability can be a strength! For example, some people with disabilities think differently, and therefore they can help solve problems that other people can’t! For example, Albert Einstein is thought to have had a disability called Autism and he had discovered many mathematic and scientific breakthroughs that changed the world. Stephen Hawking had a disability called ALS that left him paralyzed and wheel-chair bound and was both a physicist and a best-selling author.
  • Do people with disabilities need help with things?
    • Not necessarily. Everybody needs help with things sometimes, but we don’t want to assume that they need help just because they have a disability. If people assume that you need help, it might make you feel like a baby and that doesn’t make you feel good. Instead, make sure you ask if you think someone might need help! You can ask people with disabilities to help you with things too!
  • How can we support our friends with disabilities?
    • Be a good friend to them and include them in your friendship groups and activities
    • If they need help, ask them, but don’t assume that they need help
    • Appreciate and respect their similarities and differences

Explain that today they you will be reading a true story about a girl with Autism who overcame many obstacles and became a famous scientist and researcher.

Read: The Girl Who Thought In Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin by Julia Finley Mosca.

Afterward, ask students to complete one or two of the following activities found here:

Day 2:

Ask several students to share what they learned during the previous guidance lesson with the class.

Remind students that disabilities are just one of many differences that make us special and unique. Explain that not all differences are disabilities. For example, dwarfism is not a disability, although people with dwarfism may have health issues that ARE disabilities. Note: A teacher at my school gave me permission to use her disability as an example, but please do not use an example at your school without asking this person’s permission. You are welcome to use my example. I shared with students that one teacher at our school has a disability, but that many of us would never know unless she told us! Explain that it was important that I asked for her permission before sharing this because she must respect the privacy of others and let those people share that information if/when they choose to. One difference this teacher has is albinism, but that this is only a difference and not a disability. However, people with albinism are often blind, which is a disability. This teacher is legally blind, but she can see well enough to do most things at school without any help, with the exception of reading small print.

Explain that like this teacher, some people with disabilities need a little extra help in order to do the same things that the rest of the teachers do at school. For example, when this teacher was little she was allowed to have special tools and special books that allowed her to read at school. Some students with disabilities are allowed to take longer to finish tests or have certain things in class that help them to pay attention that other students may not be allowed to have.

Tell students that you are going to explore a variety of differences in a book called Not Too Big, Not Too Small.

Read the following online book:

Pass out the following worksheet (link found below) to each student. Explain that all people share similarities and differences with every person on Earth. Ask students to think about what makes them unique and have them include those traits on their paper. When they are finished drawing themselves, allow them to color all the people on their paper. If time allows, ask students to share their drawing and what makes them different.


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