Nordonia holds first-ever ‘Disabilities Week’

by Laura Bednar

The Nordonia Hills City School district held its first-ever “Disabilities Week” from May 9-13. School psychologist Gina Worsdall said she presented the idea to the Nordonia Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council along with a teacher and fellow DEIC committee member.

Worsdall and Intervention Specialist Sarah Polito have held a disabilities week at Rushwood Elementary in the past but wanted to expand it to all six schools in the district.

“The theme of the week was ‘See Us All’ and promoted the accepting, understanding and celebration of disabilities,” said Worsdall.

Each day had a different topic, including Down syndrome, learning about disabilities, autism, kindness and disability etiquette.

When speaking with parents of children with disabilities, Worsdall said their biggest concern was “how to talk to and approach a child with a disability.”

All grade levels celebrated the week differently with morning announcements, classroom discussions and themed dress days. Students also watched educational videos and read books concerning disabilities.

Rushwood had authors of the book “Kindness Badge” come to school and read aloud. With a grant from the Nordonia Schools Foundation, Worsdall, along with Educational Audiologist Jessica Hoefler, opened a free little library on campus grounds.

Hoefler has a nonprofit called “Piper’s Key,” which gifts inclusive books to children with disabilities that represent them in a positive light, according to the organization’s website. Piper’s Key donated books to the library, which also includes books to help students develop emotional regulation and self-esteem, according to Worsdall.

The week built upon the school’s “Unity Week” theme from the fall, which highlighted the way students are both similar and different to one another.

“Kids with disabilities are a lot like you,” Worsdall said. “They want friends, want to have fun, and should be treated respectfully.”

The week culminated with Nordonia hosting the Summit County Special Olympics at the high school stadium. It had not been held since 2019 due to the pandemic.

Worsdall said she wants a point person from each school next year to build on this year’s activities such as adding a speaker at the high school level.

“I want to have more community involvement next year,” she said. ∞