Celebrating Students with Special Abilities All Week Long


Olivia Columbel

T-shirts are available during lunch shifts with Isaac Medrano holding one up.

Through the week of December 5th-9th, Dominion is celebrating Special Abilities Awareness Week (SAAW), focusing on better educating the student body about the students in the Special Education Department and how their disabilities do not define their capabilities. During the week, there will be a guest speaker, questionnaires about what students learned, a game led by DECA during halftime of the boys basketball game and games to play with the special abilities students.

“Part of the reason we’ve done this for the last 10 years is to bring awareness to all of our school population about understanding all the varying types of disabilities, but really the abilities that our students have, that they can do so many things. Our hope is that eventually, there will be an acceptance and an appreciation for our students and the things that they can truly accomplish and the abilities that they have.” Sheila Traenkle, the Transitions teacher said. 

On Friday December 2nd, Dominion guest speaker David Egan, an author, athlete, and self- advocate for Down Syndrome shared about his journey growing up and finding opportunities with a disability. He has been selected to work on Capitol Hill, spoken as a Special Olympics Messenger and continues to find many different ways to spread his message about inclusion. As well he is the author of “More Alike Than Different: My Life With Down Syndrome” a personal memoir. 

At Wednesday’s basketball game against Lightridge attendees of the white out game will receive ribbons to better their understanding of Down Syndrome. Before the game, attendees can purchase a 50/50 raffle ticket. During halftime of the boys varsity game there will be a half court shot competition. All are welcome to participate, as they can come onto the court and give $1 to take a shot, then win $5 if you make the shot. The raffle winner will also be announced during halftime, as 50% of the proceeds go the Down Syndrome Association of Northern Virginia (DSANV) then the other 50% is rewarded to the winner. 

Dominions BFF Club is helping to sell t-shirts for Special Abilities Awareness Week. These $15 t-shirts say “Inspire to Include” on the front with a graphic of a wheelchair then on the back “Inclusion stronger together” around a different image of a wheelchair. All proceeds made in sales go to helping the Special Education Department. You can find two different stations to buy these shirts, one is located outside of the cafeteria and the other at the front of the school right as you enter the front doors. 

A QR code will be presented at all lunch blocks on Wednesday and Thursday for students to play a trivia game. Students can answer a few questions to check their knowledge about what they have learned throughout this week. Winners will be selected and could receive one of 30 prizes. Wednesday through Friday during all lunch shifts the department is putting on a holiday treat sale. Students are able to buy these treats just outside the cafeteria in the hallway. Then, just on Thursday, Jarrett Sites, the Adapted PE teacher, is hosting different games in the gym for students to interact with the special abilities students. 

If you weren’t able to participate this week,  Special Education Chair David Kroeze shares how students can connect with the special abilities students not just one week of the year but throughout the entire school year. “Continuing to build a culture of kindness here at the school. That’s a lot more vague and ambiguous. But I think that some of the biggest struggles that we face here are simple things. Having short tempers, being condescending, being exclusive, and who sits at our tables. And I think when we’re in the cafeteria, or when we’re at student events, inviting somebody into the life of our group of friends, is going to go a long way to not only developing relationships with our students with special abilities, but also creating a place where everybody flourishes and loves to be a part of it.” Kroeze said.