Winfield School - Raising Awareness on Angelman Syndrome

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On February 13, students and staff got together in an assembly to raise awareness and develop a greater understanding of Angelman Syndrome, something that a friend and classmate is afflicted with. This genetic disorder affects the nervous system and delays basic skill development. As well, it can cause seizures.

Students participated in five centers to learn what it is like to be a student with Angelman Syndrome. They were challenged to try tasks that were meant to simulate a day in the life of a classmate with Angelman Syndrome including difficulties with fine motor, walking/balance, and communication.

Perhaps the biggest challenge students faced was the inability to communicate their needs or chat with their peers! The sign language station gave students the opportunity to learn signs to communicate their basic needs such as “toilet”, “more”, “eat”, and “drink”. They were surprised to learn that they already know the signs for “stop” and “hello”.

Using rubber gloves on a non-dominant hand to sort beads or pick up buttons helped the students to realize how hard this simple task can be for someone with Angelman. Many of the students preferred to do these tasks without rubber gloves!

Regardless of their grade, our students were fascinated with the water tables. As well, dancing and listening to music was such fun! Who knew that these activities would be so engaging for everyone?

While walking and balance is something that most have mastered by the time they start school, it can be very difficult for someone affected by this disorder. Students tried walking zig-zag lines and uneven surfaces with beanbags or books on their heads to discover how difficult this skill is.

Overall, our students came away from the assembly with a better understanding and appreciation of what it is like to have Angelman Syndrome. They learned that they have a common interest in being with their peers and how frustrating it was to not be able to communicate.  Students were pleased to learn some basic signs to communicate with a friend who has Angelman. As well, students discovered that they share a common love for listening to music, dancing and water play-imagine that!

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