Trying to walk blindfolded or get around in a wheelchair can give children a whole new perspective of what it's like to live with a disability.
That's why staff from the Northwest Special Recreation Association takes ability awareness stations to day camps at member park districts. This summer they have visited Wheeling, Arlington Heights and Mount Prospect and will go to a Buffalo Grove camp.
In the trust walk, children are blindfolded and have to trust the leader to keep them from walking into a hole or otherwise getting hurt. Then they talk about how that felt and whether they were able to use other senses to make up for the lack of vision.
Maneuvering a wheelchair through cones is another skill they try out.
And with mirror writing, the youngsters put their hand in a box and try to connect the dots while seeing their work only in a mirror. This simulates how things might look to someone with a learning disability.
"With so much inclusion these days, it is really important for these typical-functioning kids to learn empathy for others in their camps or schools," said Justin Sienkiewicz, communications and grants coordinator for the NWSRA, referring to how more people with disabilities are integrated into classroom settings rather than being in separate classes. "The experience will foster a sense of understanding and maybe some patience."