Teenager's disability project cops gold award

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Last summer, as Megan Bone volunteered at a summer camp for children with disabilities, she wondered what she could do to continue her service when she returned to her Mt. Lebanon home.

Less than a year later, a project to improve disability awareness among elementary school students has earned her a Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest award bestowed on Girl Scouts between the ages of 14 and 18.

Megan, 17, who graduated last Thursday from Mt. Lebanon High School, spent more than 100 hours poring over books and putting together lesson plans and activity kits that will be used in Mt. Lebanon's seven elementary schools.

"I learned at [Juliette Low Camp in Kansas City, Mo.] that a lot of kids who don't have disabilities aren't aware that children with disabilities are just like them in many other ways," Megan said.

"I think we have all seen teasing and bullying in school," Megan said. "I think everybody has witnessed it."

After copious reading, she settled on two books that she said have a special message. They are "It's Okay To Be Different" by Todd Parr and "Rules" by Cynthia Lord.

"It's Okay To Be Different," for children ages 4 through 8, teaches children acceptance of various differences, everything from missing a tooth to skin color and physical limitations.

"Rules," for children ages 9 through 12 is about a 12-year-old girl who struggles with the conflicting feelings of embarrassment and love for her autistic brother.

To accompany the books, Megan wrote lesson plans for each grade to guide classroom discussion. She then put together activity kits that help children understand what it is like to have a disability. Activities include threading a needle and buttoning shirts with gardening gloves and communicating with signs.

Maureen Staub was Megan's 10th-grade English teacher. Now a librarian at Hoover Elementary, she assisted in the project. The lesson plans will be used next year, she said.

"Children might be intimidated by others with disabilities and they might not be sure how to help children with disabilities or when they should help," Ms. Staub said. "There's been a big effort needed in focusing on inclusion."

She had some special words about Megan.

"It's kind of a rare thing for a student to say, 'I want to spend my summer working with kids with disabilities,' staying up late and getting no sleep," Ms. Staub said. "Her selflessness impressed me."

Megan is the daughter of Terri and Thomas Bone, of Mt. Lebanon.

Freelance writer David Faulk can be reached in care of suburbanliving@post-gazette.com .


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