When teachers and family members work with students on building self determination skills, we often address disability-related topics. We ask students to advocate for their needs in class, to attend their own IEP meetings, to identify their transition goals. All of these activities are important, but sometimes we put the cart before the horse. Many students with vision impairments have had few opportunities to explore, identify, or articulate their own identities. For some students, it is important to back up a bit and meet a student where she is at. Exploring a student’s likes and dislikes (i.e. favorite kind of music, least favorite food) can be a comfortable place to start on the path toward self determination. The following activity is a fun and creative way to help students begin a conversation about who they are and what matters to them.
- Student’s preferred tools for writing or recording
- Copy of the poem If I Were In Charge Of The World by Judith Wiorst
- Ask student to read or listen to the poem If I Were In Charge Of The World.
- After reading and discussing the poem, ask student to write her own version of the poem. The poem does not need to be strictly modeled on the example, but it must include reference to the student’s likes, dislikes, and hopes. The poem can be as funny or serious as the student would like; the key is to be honest and creative!
- For students who require more structure with this activity, begin by working with the student to first make a list outlining 3 likes, 3 dislikes, and three hopes or wishes. Some students may be able to use these lists to help create a poem. If not, that is okay, too. The lists of likes, dislikes, and hopes should be sufficient to get students talking about who they are.
- As an extension of this activity, consider asking the student to read her new poem aloud, either for some family members or friends or in a more public venue. For some students, this can be a way to build self-confidence and practice social skills.
- For students with complex needs who are not ready for poetry writing, this can be an opportunity for the student to demonstrate some of the things she likes and dislikes. Instead of a poem, instructors or family members could build a small book or social story about a student’s perfect day, and the student can use symbols or her preferred mode of communication to pick her favorite food, activity, etc.
- This activity is a way for students to build upon their self determination skills, but also on their compensatory, communication, and assistive technology skills.