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Empathy Training for BIG Monday.

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Empathy Training for BIG Monday

  • At the heart of our mission are the core values of Push America. Push America strives to exemplify these values on a daily basis through our mission and the programs we provide. Our core values are a part of everything we do and are the guiding principles of the organization.


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Push America Core Values

  • Abilities – Push America believes in the abilities of all people. It is our goal to demonstrate to others the importance of seeing a person and their abilities before their disability.

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Push America Core Values

  • Teamwork – Push America recognizes that together, everyone achieves more. All programs of Push America are team-oriented and the impact can be seen, not only in the people we support, but also in the leaders we continue to develop.

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Push America Core Values

  • Empathy – Push America encourages empathy, rather than sympathy. We teach individuals to engage in conversation with people with disabilities just as they would with a friend. People with disabilities want to be treated just like everyone else and are not looking for people to feel sorry for them.

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Empathy Defined

  • Compassion in action.

  • Training your feelings rather than your intellect.

  • Understanding through shared experiences.

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Empathy Training for Adults

  • Many people believe that what persons with disabilities need most is a more understanding society.

  • The following activities demonstrate what it might be like to have a disability. Since we are able to turn the “disability” off at the end of the activity, and we are aware during the activity of having a temporarily simulated condition, we do not attempt to know exactly what it is like.

  • Openly discuss your attitudes, feelings, and any changes you experience.

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Lip Reading

  • Candace and I paired up for some lip-reading practice. We discovered we are neither one very proficient. We had to silently mouth short words to one another while the partner had to interpret the word. Candace said that if the word started with a hard consonant, she could make out the sound of it, but the rest of the word was still particularly difficult.

  • This activity is designed to familiarize participants with just one method of communicating with persons who have hearing impairments. Foremost, it is important that they can see your mouth!

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Number Surprise

  • Stacie, David and Matt were asked to place index cards on their foreheads then write a series of numbers on the cards. Stacie did remarkably well, but the boys were surprised at what they saw when they removed the cards to inspect their work.

  • This activity simulates the challenges that mentally retarded students may face during the learning process.

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Too Many Directions

  • Carrie shared a long list of instructions with Kim…verbally. Obviously it was challenging for Kim to remember all of the instructions in sequence.

  • This activity emphasizes the importance of breaking activities and instructions into manageable steps.

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Using Only 3 and 5 Letter Words

  • Some group members had to answer basic everyday questions using only three- and five-letter words. “What is your favorite food?” “Why do you want to be a teacher?”

  • This activity simulates the frustration on both sides of communication when one person has a speech impediment, limited vocabulary or is unable to form clear thoughts. It is difficult to express oneself or resist the urge to finish that person’s thought or sentence. An exercise in both patience and listening.

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Eating with Empathy Training

  • The following assignments were given to classmates at the beginning of the meal.

    • Using a non-dominant hand.

    • Feeding another adult or being fed.

    • Blinded.

    • Limited the use of fingers and thumbs.

    • Observing the group’ behavior.

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Eating with Empathy Training

  • Jamie (back) has no use of his hands, so Candace fed him his dinner tonight. Jamie felt helpless and embarrassed, and he also felt sorry for Candace for having to feed him.

  • Candace had only good intentions while helping Jamie and did not want him to be embarrassed.

  • Laura and Allie (front) were assigned to monitor the group’s behavior.

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Eating with Empathy Training

  • David ate dinner tonight with his fingers taped together. He had very limited use of those fingers and could not use his hands in the ways to which he is accustomed. The always insightful and empathetic David commented that it was difficult to eat with his fingers taped together, but upon seeing some of the other “disabilities” in the room, he felt lucky to not have a condition as debilitating as theirs.

  • Stacie taped her thumbs to one of her fingers during the meal. She also found it difficult to manage her food and drink without the use of her opposable thumbs.

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Eating with Empathy Training

  • Kim drew the infamous blindfold assignment. On the small study desk she ate and drank quietly. Kim described feelings of disorientation and disconnectedness from the group. She was very self-conscious about possibly spilling or dropping food and drink and becoming embarrassed.

  • Matt was required to sit on his dominant hand forcing him to eat dinner only with his non-dominant one.

  • Carrie reached out to help Kim on occasion.

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Process Observer Notes

  • Laura’s summary of the activity states, “Overall, we gained some empathy for any students that we might encounter that have similar disabilities to those that were experienced tonight. We need to remember to take their feelings and special needs into account when including and engaging them in the classroom!”

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  • This is a powerful activity in a large group where lots of observations, mixed reactions and thorough discussions can take place.

  • Thanks to CoT and BIG Monday for indulging me in this activity.

  • Thanks to Pi Kappa Phi and PUSH America for continuing to develop meaningful training programs.