Graduate Review


The need for middle school students to acquire social competence which improves peer acceptance creates the potential for a negative impact to healthy development, especially for individuals with disabilities. The purpose of this study was to determine if participating in a simulated experience of visual, auditory and/or hearing impairment would improve empathy and acceptance of individuals with a disability, in middle school students. Methods: Forty-four sixth grade students, aged eleven to twelve years, attending a school in the rural Midwest, participated in the study. Students were randomly divided into three groups and participated in three activities for ten minutes each designed to create a simulated experience of having visual, auditory and/or mobility loss. Students completed a pre-test and post-test survey to evaluate change in empathy of students after participating in the simulated activities. Participants also were involved in a debriefing session designed to empower students to create meaning from their experiences. Data was collected and analyzed using SPSS Descriptive Statistics. Results indicated on average empathy for individuals with disabilities increased after experiencing each of the three simulations M = 20, SD = 2.61. This difference was found to be significant t(43) =2.18, p < .05. Conclusion: Findings suggest empathy for individuals with disabilities increased after experiencing the simulated mobility, hearing and/or vision loss activities, suggesting social acceptance is possible through experiential and inclusive learning activities specifically designed to improve empathy. Therefore, implementing experiential and inclusive learning activities into school programming and curriculum may foster an increase in acceptance of students with disabilities.



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