Cresskill Students Fight Stigma, Shine Light on Disabilities

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Cresskill Students Fight Stigma, Shine Light on Disabilities

From left to right: Asaka Park, Walter Kruger, and Caio Simonetta present to Cresskill’s 
sixth-grade advisory group (photo c/o Mrs. Cavins’ Twitter page)

From left to right: Asaka Park, Walter Kruger, and Caio Simonetta present to Cresskill’s sixth-grade advisory group (photo c/o Mrs. Cavins’ Twitter page)

From left to right: Asaka Park, Walter Kruger, and Caio Simonetta present to Cresskill’s sixth-grade advisory group (photo c/o Mrs. Cavins’ Twitter page)

From left to right: Asaka Park, Walter Kruger, and Caio Simonetta present to Cresskill’s sixth-grade advisory group (photo c/o Mrs. Cavins’ Twitter page)

Max Wilson, Editor in Chief

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Disabilities have a reputation for making life difficult, but they aren’t stopping the students behind Cresskill’s Access-Ability.

Members of the club met with the sixth-grade advisory group on Jan. 23 to give their second presentation of the month, explaining the nuances of being disabled and answering burning questions about what life is like for the less-abled.

Among the tools employed by the 11th-grade presenters, Asaka Park, Walter Kruger, and Caio Simonetta, were an interactive demonstration of the struggle some people face when reading and videos that portrayed how disabled people are often mistaken for being rude, or strange.

“I tried to think about the thoughts kids that age would have about disability,” said Asaka, who is club president and has a mild form of autism. She designed most of the public service presentation.

The team addressed curiosity as to why disabled students get more time on tests, and why some are actually proud of their disadvantages. Walter, who also has a mild form of autism, was able to overcome what was once a source of shame, learning how to control his emotions and accept criticism, socializing and participating at his church.

“In my five years living in Cresskill, I have made strong relationships with my friends, teachers, and almost everyone in school,” he remarked.

In fact, Walter is now able to use it to his advantage, saying that while he once had a hard time with tests, “I began to feel more confident about taking extra time.”

“What really made an impact, I think, was the presenters speaking from the heart about their own disabilities,” club adviser Ms. White explained, adding that she believes “it put a face to the word ‘disability’ and reduced the stigma, which is the goal of the club.”

The club, open to people with or without disabilities, was started by Asaka in her freshman year as a way to “bring awareness to disabilities in general,” as well as fundraise and advocate for groups that “promote disability awareness,” as Ms. White puts it.

Access-Ability is slated to give two more presentations throughout February, and also will be running bake sales on February 8th, March 8th, and April 12th, for Understood.org, Freedom Service Dogs, and the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, respectively. They invite anyone who is interested in being a part of the club to join their Google classroom, with the code ‘k808kb.’

Asaka understands that Access-Ability’s mission is not an easy one, but believes in the value of teaching sixth-graders about such an important subject.

“I hope we can convey the fact that disability is a complex human experience, even though they may not yet grasp the fine points.”