With the new school year rolling in, it is a great time to join some clubs and get involved! Wings is one of the newest clubs at school, sponsored by Mrs. Landskroner, one of the Autistic Support teachers, and Ms. Donelly, the Life Skills teacher. Don’t let the c
lub’s name confuse you, it comes from its goal to help mentees “take flight.” The club’s mission statement is to encourage positive social interactions between all students at UDHS. Students become “mentors” to support students with disabilities, so they grow as independent people and successfully communicate with others at school.
To fully comprehend the essence of the program, it is important to know some background knowledge about disabilities. There are various types of disabilities out there, including Learning, Emotional Disturbance, and Autism Spectrum Disorder are all different types of disabilities. Students with a learning disability find it more difficult for themselves to learn. But, they still have great personalities, can speak for themselves, and still have great knowledge on other topics. They need assistance with organization, social skills, understanding certain ideas (e.g. math), and can be self conscious. Emotional Disturbance is when an individual has certain emotional or social needs that inhibit learning, theirs or other people’s included, over an extended period of time (e.g. Depression). Generally, very protective and sensitive to others with disabilities, people with this disability tend to have unstable moods, are socially withdrawn, may use profanity to express emotions, or are hyperactive. Autism Spectrum Disorder is neurological disorder, where their brains are wired differently than those without it. These students still have a great sense of humor, can be very intelligent, honest, unique interests, and can utilize visuals. Those with ASD have weaker social skills, executive functioning, have trouble following complex instructions, and organizational skills.
So what do mentors do and why should you join Wings Club? Being a mentor is a great opportunity and open to anyone! The club is for students who are dedicated, kind, empathetic, mature, and have a willingness to learn and have fun! Mentors interact with peers who have different strengths and weaknesses and thinking styles than their own, helping them build relationships with others. This is all in order to create an inviting and inclusive environment at UD. There is something always exciting happening with this club! The activities that Wings members participate in include, but are not limited to: spirit week decorating, going to school events (performing arts, sporting events), handing out brochures/pamphlets at school events, and writing letters to troops. In addition, Wings members also meet for games, activities, and snacks. Moreover, mentors have a chance to be a “leader(s) of the month”. All mentors are required to be one. Leaders organize two monthly activities, one Wings-based and a school-wide event. For example, last year, Wings members enjoyed a Holiday Gift exchange in December. Mrs. Landskroner explained, “When we arrange opportunities for Wings members to attend school-wide events, it gives our members the confidence and security to go to activities with a familiar peer group.” In a mentor training session, Mrs. Donnelly told students to picture a scenario like this, “Picture how it would feel to walk into the cafeteria (or a football game, theater production, etc) and not have a group to sit with.” Students with special needs feel this way sometimes, but also keep in mind that this can happen to anyone, just the same. This is not true for all students in special education, but it is important for all students at school and in their community, to include and accept others.
Everyone should join Wings Club, because it is chance for students to socialize and have a terrific time with others they might not always see or talk to, and a worthwhile experience where they can make memories that will last.