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By Janet Goetze, The Oregonian
March 14, 2002
The Christie School’s students discover how people with disabilities complete daily tasks

Putting his arms into his sleeves of a shirt while one hand was taped into a fist, depriving him of a thumb and extra fingers to hold the garment, was frustrating enough for Josh.
Then the wiry 11-year-old had to button the shirt.
“Oohhhhh,” he said after successfully fastening three buttons then encountering a fourth that slipped away from his free thumb and fingers.
Josh was one of nearly 50 youths at The Christie School who gained an idea Wednesday of how people with physical disabilities do such everyday tasks as getting dressed, pouring water from a bottle and writing legibly.

The students, ranging in age from 8 to 18, attended workshops led by Kevin Chong, 35, of Vancouver, Wash., who was born with cerebral palsy. The condition means his brain has difficulty telling the muscles on his left side what he wants them to do, he explained to the students.

He has conducted workshops at schools in the region for eight years. His goal, he said, is to help students understand how disabilities affect people, and how students can develop empathy—not sympathy—for people who may walk or talk differently from themselves.
The staff at Christie, the state’s largest residential treatment center for children between the ages of 8 and 18, invited him to bring his workshops to the campus in Lake Oswego.

Four out of five of Christie’s 80 students have experienced neglect or abuse, spokeswoman Drina Simons said. Their treatment plan includes ways to help them regain a sense of self-worth and empathy for others, she said, as well as providing them with emotional security and appropriate ways to express distress.
In the workshops, students wore blind-folds to pour water from a bottle into a cup, gaining a sense of how blind people do the task without spilling. They lifted up their feet while maneuvering a wheelchair through a doorway, using only their arms to push the big wheels. Then they reached back to close the door after themselves.

Kevin Chong

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