Walk In My Shoes Program

Walk In My Shoes Program

We teach empathy and inclusion through fun and interactive activities.

Operating as usual

Mini-Grants 01/14/2024

Fairfax County, VA friends: Want your school to run one of our programs? They can win a mini-grant up to $500 from the Fairfax County Special Education PTA. Applications are due February 15, 2024.

We have three programs:

Inclusive Schools for 3rd-grade and up
Accessible World for K - 2nd
And coming soon, Recess Oasis for K - 6

Contact us for pricing and budget: [email protected]

From Fairfax County Special Education PTA - SEPTA: Our Winter/Spring Mini-Grants for FCPS staff are now open for application! Please click on the link below for more information and to apply. PLEASE NOTE: You must be a current, paid, SEPTA member to apply. If you are unsure of your current membership status, please email [email protected]. To become a SEPTA member, please go to http://fcsepta.ptboard.com
https://fairfaxcountysepta.org/mini-grants/

Mini-Grants Fairfax County Special Education PTA is pleased to offer mini-grants of up to $500 for SEPTA member teachers or staff to implement programs, attend professional development, or obtain material desi…

Photos from Fairfax County Public Library's post 01/05/2024

In honor of , check out the wonderful resources available at Fairfax County Public Library!

12/04/2023

SAVE THE DATE! Check out the next Meet the Author Series with FCPS - Family Resource Center with 3 local authors and their book: Raising a Kid Who Can. Join them on 1/5/24 for this highly informative webinar. Their presentation will give you confidence to tackle modern kid struggles! Register here: https://bit.ly/46iWExr

Our next Meet the Author Series comes from 3 local authors and their book: Raising a Kid Who Can. Join us on 1/5/24 for this highly informative webinar. Their presentation will give you confidence to tackle modern kid struggles! Register here: https://bit.ly/46iWExr

12/04/2023

: Yesterday was !
Please take a moment to thank the Special Education Teachers in your life!

Photos from AllWorthy's post 12/04/2023

This lovely post from AllWorthy sums it up so nicely! We love that AllWorthy started based on a cat named Maya who has a chromosome abnormality.

"Today is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
But it's only one day of the year.
We need to fight every day for the rights and well-being of disabled people around the world.
Because the time is now. When we come together to educate about disabilities, we can normalize them, reduce stigmas, and create a more inclusive future. ✨"
🦾💪🏿💪🏻💪🏾🦾💪🏽

11/03/2023

Thank you to the Fairfax County chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution for recognizing the community service provided by Walk In My Shoes. It was an honor to present to them in January and be recognized in front of their chapter today.

In addition to the lovely recognition, they also donated $500 to our organization which will provide the program, technical assistance, and training to a Title 1 school.

Thank you, DAR!

10/21/2023

We are featuring Jennifer Kruzynski, a long-time follower and adviser of our work! Here's her WIMS story:

Several years ago, I walked into a presentation about a program called Walk In My Shoes (WIMS) and I knew this was exactly the kind of program I wanted to get involved with. I was teaching an inclusive elective class at the time and loved the idea of bringing WIMS to our school. Immediately connecting with the work Margaret was doing, I knew I had to get involved.

WIMS is a program designed for 3rd through 6th graders, but I used it with my high school students, in a corporate setting as a training for staff on disabilities, and as part of my doctoral studies and research. This was a completely new way of using the activities but helped us realize that the WIMS activities had so much potential!

With my high school students, I created a pilot study where I had the students study and learn about disabilities and the WIMS program and hold our own event for younger students. This was a HUGE success and I was able to collect some qualitative data through interviews and focus groups to help inform the strengths and weaknesses of the activities and program.

When I used it in a corporate setting, participants had to complete knowledge checks which provided us with some good quantitative data on their change in knowledge and action after completing the training.

After all of this, it was only natural that I use WIMS as part of my dissertation. For this, I took the program to the island of St. Maarten where I had previously taught. I utilized the program as a teacher training tool since there is no special education on the island. Through interviews and focus groups, I gathered a lot of information on how building empathy and working through the steps of the WIMS program, actionable change can occur. The most rewarding part was seeing and hearing the teachers have epiphanies and describing how they’ve completely changed their outlook and their way of teaching to be more inclusive. They always wanted to but didn’t know how or understand the needs of their students.

After working with WIMS throughout the years, I found a passion for creative design. I started learning and exploring instructional design and changed my career to instructional and experience design. I work full time creating job training content in the virtual reality platform to help enhance the classroom to career pipeline. I also work with groups like WIMS creating training products, educational materials, curriculums, e-learning, training programs, learning modules, etc. I love helping others through this creative process whether it’s creating materials based on ideas or objectives someone has or simply formatting and designing current materials into a more user friendly guide.

WIMS has grown into more than a dozen activities for 3rd-grade and up, and 5 activities for K - 2nd students. Recently I have been helping WIMS by pulling out and formatting activities into stand-alone pieces. They include:

The Morning Meeting Activity Guide

The K - 2nd Activity Guide

The Food Allergy Activity Guide

These are available here: https://www.walkinmyshoesprogram.org/shop

I look forward to working with WIMS to format future activity guides and programs.

For inquiries about how I can help you with your creative work, contact:

Jennifer Kruzynski at [email protected]

09/08/2023

Funding opportunities!! Two great ways to fund your school's Walk In My Shoes program!

One is national and one is local to Fairfax County, VA:

National PTA due 10/4: https://www.pta.org/home/run-your-pta/Awards-Grants?_zs=OGxrd,OGxrd&_zl=PIui3,PIui3

FCPS SEPTA due 10/15: https://fairfaxcountysepta.org/mini-grants/

Teachers, counselors, PTAs, and administrators love our programs! It is flexible, fun, and can be tailored to your school. Our programs level up--we are not your standard simulation program. Here are some of the many outcomes we strive for.
Kids learn:

--To ask what food allergies are in their class so they can bring something everyone can enjoy.

--Why kids with ADHD can have extra time

--To believe people when they say something is too bright, too loud, etc.

--Not to make fun of kids with movement disorders

--Why ramps help everyone and how to advocate for them.

--Not to use sarcasm with friends who have trouble reading emotions

And So Much More

We currently have two programs available:

3rd-grade and up, $450 (includes a curriculum with 13 activities, a presentation to walk you through the process, planning/TA meeting for your team, and training for your volunteers)!

K - 2nd, $275 (includes a curriculum with 5 activities, assembly of materials, books, a box of materials, and shipping).

For more information, contact [email protected]

Image ID: A woman with black hair and a dark top holds open a book. In front of her are several young children. To her side is a round grey table with cupcake cutouts and markers.



Spoon Theory & Capacity Issues - Asperger Experts 08/28/2023

School is starting and some kids will be excited, stressed, or both. Some parents will be relieved to have more time on their hands, for others, back to school brings back a variety of concerns. We all know we are supposed to stay calm, scaffold, and support. Here is a resource to help with the perspective piece so parents can better support kids who hold it together all day and then come home exhausted.

Spoon Theory & Capacity Issues - Asperger Experts 'Spoons' is a metaphor, a code word, to describe and measure how much physical and emotional capacity each of us has to get through the day.

Photos from Walk In My Shoes Program's post 08/26/2023

Walk In My Shows is out in force to support a new Loudoun County business, the Artisan Market Studio! They provide a retail space for local artists. The art is gorgeous! Join us at 34 Catoctin Circle SE in Leesburg! Look for the Big Blue Owl!



Free PDF download: Thin Slice Judgements and The Different World Autistics Inhabit 08/14/2023

Please take a moment to read and share this article on thin-slice judgments. This article explains how painful it is for autistic people to be constantly judged as being different or unlikeable. As the kids around you prepare to return to school, please talk with them about differences and the importance of including others.

To quote Rachel Macy Stafford of The Hands-Free Revolution: When everyone else stares, do something different.
Smile, Smile
It’s an invitation of the most inclusive kind.
It tells the heart standing outside the circle,
“Come on in. There’s a place for you here.”

https://neuroclastic.com/free-pdf-download-thin-slice-judgements-and-the-different-world-autistics-inhabit/?fbclid=IwAR0N3AVlyws7AVNZrh4J2D2jNu3oc5AkLGyxmQ8d-GMW6CL9d-GQRz8kRBg

ID: A black background image with a pair of eyes outlined in white and text in light green lettering that says "Thin Slice Judgements" and text in red that says "and the different world autistics inhabit"

The Hands Free Revolution


Free PDF download: Thin Slice Judgements and The Different World Autistics Inhabit Research has shown that instantly, non-autistic people negatively judge autistic people on first sight. This is a free printable resource for you on thin slice judgements.

07/18/2023

Congratulations to the The Difference Baker for setting the trend toward more inclusive college dining!!!!

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=778780584247131&id=100063455893117&mibextid=ZbWKwL

🎉 DRUMROLL PLEASE🎉 We're beyond excited to announce that The Difference Baker is coming to George Mason University this fall! 🎊🏫🍰

Our allergen-friendly bakery is setting up shop in the old Einstein Bros. location in the Engineering building, and we couldn't be more thrilled! Our mission is simple - to make a difference in the lives of people with food restrictions by crafting delectable treats that are certified free from gluten, peanut, tree nut, soy, fish, sesame, and crustacean but packed with flavor! 🍪🥐🥯 We're incredibly proud that George Mason University will be our second brick and mortar location ever, and even prouder to be the FIRST university in the nation to bring a certified allergen-friendly bakery to campus!

Join us on this exciting journey as we share the joy of delicious, allergen-safe treats with the Mason community! Follow to stay updated on our bakery's grand opening and more. Let's make a difference together! ✨🍽️

05/15/2023

Love this post about sensory issues!

https://www.facebook.com/100041655466428/posts/964213811643792/?mibextid=Nif5oz

The Dropoff

I went to an elementary school early to experience the morning dropoff and help anyone who may need a little support with the transition into school.

As I arrived at the school, I was "announced" by a group of some of my tiny friends: "MR. GREG IS HEEEEEERE!" I've been an OT for almost a quarter of a century. That will NEVER get old!

It was a beautiful day. Parents were lingering in front of the school after saying goodbye for the day, younger siblings were running around on the grass, students were meeting up with their classmates and you can see the slow roll of the car dropoff line in the distance. There was a lot going on outside!

I was in a small group talking Pokémon, and a 4th grader came up to me and asked me a question: "Mr. Greg, how do you stay out here when it's so overwhelming?"

What a question!

I was truly honored that he came up to ask me that (he's not a child on my caseload), and really impressed! So, we talked about it.

I have my sensory issues, and he had his. I also had something he was looking for...a possible solution!

There was A LOT going on outside. It was warm, so with the change of season came a change in temperature and clothing that can definitely take some adjusting to. There were a lot of unpredictable moving parts, including bodies, and the sensory environment was just a lot to process that early in the morning. My coffee hadn't even kicked in yet!

I pulled him into the Pokémon conversation. "Come here, Pikachu" I said with a smile. "I'll explain to you how I handle it out here."

I told him that while I'd prefer to just sit under a tree and squeeze the new Snorlax Squishmellow that just came out, I instead make the environment work for me as best I can. I put my bookbag down so I don't feel so weighted down. Some people like to keep it on because it feels like a hug. I don't like a sweaty back, so on the ground it goes. I also like to find one or two friends I trust to talk to. This way, I can focus on the conversation and not all the craziness around me. I may even turn my back to the crazy so I don't see (I began to point) those little monkies running around, those trees blowing sneezy stuff and those cars smashing into each other at the dropoff line. He quickly snapped his head to look. "Just kidding about that one", I said.

Do you want to hang out with us?

"Sure", he said with a smile.

After a few minutes of talking Mega Pinsir raids and the upcoming GoFest, we walked inside together. We both exhaled. "Recess will be better" I said. "We'll be all warmed up and there'll be less going on out there." He agreed.

This little boy articulated his challenges perfectly, making easy for someone who "thinks sensory" (me) to help him navigate his environment.

But what about the kids who can't articulate their stress, or their sensory challenges, like this little boy? They still may have similar challenges, and you know how they'll communicate them to us? Through their behavior! Shutting down, running off, pushing someone who got a little too close...when a child is under stress, they will use whatever they have to eliminate the threat as quickly as possible.

You know what would really stink? If that child got in trouble for a behavior that was a response to stress. They were already not feeling their best. The added "consequence" just makes them feel confused...even sad.

So how do we know if a "bad" behavior is a response to stress? Just assume that it is. If we do, it puts us in helping mindset. If we don't, it's a revenge mindset. It's telling a dysregulated child that because they did something WE didn't like, we have to do something to them that THEY don't like in return. That's not healthy, it's not fair, and it's a threat to the very relationship you need for true co-regulation and collaborative problem-solving.

Sensory processing is an all day everyday occurrence. For our kids who are hyper- or hypo-sensitive to sensory input, the struggle is very real and often invisible, until their behavior tells us there's a problem to solve.

I'm going back for another dropoff soon. This one was sensational!

05/09/2023

Sharing this post from Faithmummy describing what it is like when your child struggles with food. Not food allergies, but texture, taste, smell, whether it touches or not, etc.

What it is like having a child who struggles with food

There’s very little my child will eat. I have tried everything you can think of and more besides. There’s so little understanding around parenting a child like mine so here’s some idea of what it’s like:

It’s ‘stock piling’ when you find an item they will consistently actually eat.

It’s driving miles and miles until you find one packet of something and feeling every penny of fuel was worth it just so your child will have something for their next meal.

It’s wasting so much food yet still being thankful that your child put a few spoons of it into their mouth willingly.

It’s never going out for family meal because you already know your child will never cope or eat.

It’s living in fear of phrases like ‘new improved’, ‘now with extra…’, or ‘discontinued item’.

It’s the heartbreak of knowing something as simple as a change of packaging might stop your child ever eating an item again.

It’s making separate meals every single day.

It’s trying to explain to people that’s it’s way more than ‘fussy eating’ and you are not just ‘pandering to them.’

It’s googling things like ‘beige foods’ or ‘crunchy foods’ or ‘soft foods’ in the vain hope of finding just one more item your child might try.

It’s celebrating when an item is looked at, licked or touched like it’s the greatest thing ever just to then bin it because it still doesn’t get eaten.

It’s the constant worry that your child isn’t getting the necessary vitamins and nutrients they need to grow but being helpless to do anything about it.

It’s begging for support only to ge given shakes your child won’t even so much as look at.

It’s seeing your child underweight and tired and constantly feeling useless to help them.

It’s crying yourself to sleep feeling you have somehow failed your child.

It’s sending a child to school with snacks and food you know they will never even open.

It’s looking at the school lunch menu knowing there won’t be anything your child will eat on there.

It’s being judged constantly by family, friends, and society.

It’s being misunderstood.

It’s hiding your own stress because you mustn’t let your child see or you know they will stop eating altogether.

It’s learning quickly what items will pass the ever changing ‘rules’.

It’s knowing every day will be the same but always hoping that day might still be different.

It’s researching sensory needs, autism, restricted diets, eating disorders and anything else you can think of that might help.

It’s buying diving plates so nothing every touches.

It’s being endlessly patient.

It’s never giving up.

It’s seeing a half empty plate and crying with relief.

By Miriam Gwynne

Photos from Walk In My Shoes Program's post 04/24/2023

What's more fun than organizing a Walk In My Shoes event? Organizing it with a friend for her awesome community group!

Last Saturday we participated in a very special Elevate Autism event organized by a local chapter of the Jack and Jill of America, Incorporated organization.

The organizers of this event conceptualized, planned, and executed an excellent model for integrating WIMS inclusion activities into a community event setting.

Thank you, Melissa, Kimberly, and Barbara. It was an honor to work with you. Thank you to MaryBeth Hazelgrove for being my volunteer at this event.

04/09/2023

Getting ready for an event next weekend and laminating our new Sensory Detective Badges. Thanks for this idea, Dusty!

Photos from Walk In My Shoes Program's post 04/09/2023

We've been enjoying so many great books lately! What books are you reading to help kids understand and appreciate differences?



04/03/2023

It's World Autism Acceptance Day! The importance of building empathy in children and adults cannot be overstated which is why our comprehensive program walks kids through the steps needed to help develop empathy. For more information contact Margaret at [email protected].

Image ID:
Two hands holding a heart. Text: Celebrate World Autism Acceptance Day! BUILD EMPATHY. Walk In My Shoes logo on a blue gradient background from light blue to dark blue to violet.






2023 Special Education Conference First Class Award Nomination Form 04/03/2023

Do you know an FCPS employee who is going above and beyond to include students with disabilities in their communities?

FIRST CLASS AWARD NOMINATIONS:
First-Class Awards are presented each year at the Special Education Conference to individuals who support, design, and/or implement inclusion activities that result in positive outcomes for students. The Advisory Committee for Students with Disabilities is seeking nominations for these awards, which recognize and celebrate the inclusion efforts of educators, administrators, and students in all facets of education.
Please complete this form to nominate an individual who has made an exceptional contribution to inclusive practices in FCPS: https://docs.google.com/.../1FAIpQLSfGcA5n46jOyO.../viewform
Nominations will close Friday, April 14.

2023 Special Education Conference First Class Award Nomination Form The Advisory Committee for Students with Disabilities (ACSD) is seeking nominations for the First-Class Awards. The First-Class Awards are an annual celebration of individuals in Fairfax County who support, implement, or design programs and activities which include students with disabilities that re...

04/02/2023

Last weekend these wonderful children came together to help us run through our new sensory processing activities! They learned how to be aware of what's happening around them and earned badges for being sensory detectives! They also learned what it feels like to want to follow classroom rules but not be able to, and especially, they learned the importance of believing our friends when they say that something is too loud, too bright, or too tight.

Thank you to Lori Vintilescu for her generosity in offering her home and recruiting the participants!

To learn more, visit www.walkinmyshoesprogram.org

ID: Photo of a girl with brown hair making a face that shows dislike, a photo of an orange cat sitting near several colorful sensory tiles, and kids playing with sensory toys. Text says thank you for helping us test our new WIMS sensory processing activities! The WIMS blue and white logo appears near the text.




03/22/2023

It's to celebrate !
Every year on March 21, people all around the world come together to celebrate World Down Syndrome Day by wearing brightly colored, mismatched socks.
March 21 is symbolic because people with Down syndrome have 3 copies of their 21st chromosome. Socks were chosen because the karyotype of Ds chromosomes actually looks like mismatched socks!
Show us your socks!

03/15/2023

We love hearing from the schools that run WIMS! This message is from a school in Miami that has been running the program through the school counseling team with just one or two activities at a time throughout the year rather than as an assembly with several activity rotations. We love how flexible the program is and the way it fits into whatever a school might need!

ID: Yellow background with a white text box and orange text that says: Message from Miami. Great training and program! We ran the food allergy and emotion reading sessions again today with 4th and 5th grade it was so good to see the kids learn about these topics, we really enjoy the program, Talking with you made me realize how necessary it is to teach these concepts, and the training left me confident in the delivery of the activities that we are doing and the discussions we are having with the kids. I am hoping to hold 3 or 4 more WIMS sessions before the school year ends! www.walkinmyshoesprogram.org




03/15/2023

We had so much fun training Rose Hill Elementary staff this week! This school purchased WIMS right before the world shut down and is now getting ready to bring the program to life at their school! Thank you, Rose Hill, for sticking with it, it's going to be great!



03/13/2023

New! WIMS Morning Meeting Guide! This is the guide that schools receive when they purchase the WIMS 3rd-grade and up program. It represents the first component in our 3-part program (the 3 parts are 1) pre-teaching; 2) event activities; 3) debriefing) and is now available as a stand-alone piece that can be used during disability, diversability, autism, and other inclusive celebrations!

Click here to purchase and share this post with a friend! https://www.walkinmyshoesprogram.org/product-page/morning-meeting-guide

Acknowledgments:

The original Morning Meeting Guide was developed in collaboration with FCPS Special Education Teacher Lise Greenfield.

The book list was developed by FCPS librarian Tiffany Dowling.

The WIMS Youth Ambassadors, Annika, Sarina, and Rhea, and WIMS Volunteers, Ananya, and Thara helped develop the empathetic listening activity.

The "Just Ask" activity was contributed by Broward County School Counselor, Maritza Zea.

The SMILE poem was included with permission from Rachel Macy Stafford of the Hands Free Revolution.

The respecting names and labels activity was developed in collaboration with the WIMS Visual Impairment Working Group: Arielle Silverman, Ph.D., Disabilities Research and Training Consultant, Disability Wisdom Consulting; Carlton Walker, President, National Organization of Parents of Blind Children; Donna Michelle Genelin, Parent Advocate; Jackie Anderson, Teacher; Melissa Anne Riccobono, Advocate.

The guide was formatted by Jennifer Kruzynski and edited by Joanne Walton.

ID: Slate grey background with white text announcing the new Morning Meeting Guide as a stand-alone product for $25 available through the following link: https://www.walkinmyshoesprogram.org/product-page/morning-meeting-guide



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