In an effort to better prepare therapy students for their interactions with disabled people, professor Cynthia Colwell of the University of Kansas asked her students to pretend they had one of the following disabilities:
- one-arm amputation
- lower-limb paralysis requiring a wheelchair
- a hearing impairment
- a visual impairment
Each "disabled" student had another student act as their aide. The pair then spent 30 minutes interacting in a public place such as a restaurant or store. Initially, the students were reluctant to pretend they had disabilities because they thought it would be offensive to people with real disabilities. In addition, the students didn't think they would learn anything new from the simulation experience.
After completing the exercise the students described the experience as enlightening. In addition, they said the exercise increased their empathy toward people with disabilities.
"Without fail, all of them came back and said, 'That was really cool'," Cowell said. "They don't necessarily like the experience, but they said, 'This will help me working with a student or client with a disability.'"
More information on Cowell's study is on Phys.Org.
The study, "Simulating disabilities as a tool for altering individual perceptions of working with children with special needs", is published in the International Journal of Music Education.