Lesson 49: Valuing and Encouraging People with Disabilities

Young Women Manual 2, (1993), 188–90


Each young woman will respect and appreciate the contributions of people with disabilities.


  1. 1.

    Prepare a copy of the word Differences in large letters for each young woman.

  2. 2.

    Bring pencils for the class members.

  3. 3.

    If it is available, show the video presentation “Appreciating the Handicapped,” from Family Home Evening Video Supplement 2 (53277).

Suggested Lesson Development

We Can Understand People with Disabilities

Teacher presentation

Explain that all of us are more like each other than we are different.

  • What are some of the ways we are all alike? (We need food, clothing, and shelter; we need to be loved; we want to develop our talents; we want to serve others.)

  • What are some of the ways we are different? (We have different interests, different abilities, and different living circumstances.) Point out that some people also have the difference of disabilities.

Activity and discussion

Distribute the pencils and copies of the word Differences.

Challenge the young women to trace the letters of the word with the hand they do not usually write with. Tell them to try to do it accurately but as fast as they can. They should find the process slow and difficult. Give them a time limit, and encourage them to hurry. Compliment those who work well. Put pressure on those who are behind.

  • How do you feel when you are working under pressure on an assignment that is beyond your capabilities or that you cannot do well?

Explain that this is how a person who has trouble learning often feels in classrooms at school or church.

Scripture discussion

Ask a young woman to read John 13:34–35.

  • How do people know that we are Christ’s disciples?

Have the young women sing or read together the Primary song, “I’ll Walk with You” (Children’s Songbook, p. 140).

Explain that all around us are people with disabilities. Some are physical, some are mental, and some are emotional. Some disabilities are easy to see; others are invisible until you get to know the person well. Our actions and attitudes make a difference to people with disabilities. We should show them that we care about them and not do things that will cause them embarrassment or pain.

What can we do to show people with disabilities that we accept and care about them? (Look them in the eye, smile, get on their eye level, communicate with them as we would any other person.)

Teacher presentation

Explain that Alice, a law student who lost her sight, said, “I can do most things that others can, but I need different tools and different ways of doing things. Help me find the tools and the methods. Don’t do things for me, but help me use my abilities.”

Encourage the class members to talk with people who have disabilities. Suggest that they ask these people what helps them and what doesn’t help.


If it is available, show “Appreciating the Handicapped,” from Family Home Evening Video Supplement 2.

Examples and discussion

Discuss the following examples and questions with the young women:

A girl who walks with supporting braces said: “When I walk down the halls, people pass me without making eye contact. It is as if they are saying, ‘I can’t fix what’s wrong with you, so I will pretend that you and your problem are not there.’”

  • What can we do instead of avoiding people with obvious disabilities? (We all have a natural curiosity about things we are not familiar with. We need to ask people about their disabilities and not be embarrassed to let them know that we are wondering or are interested.)

A boy who is intellectually impaired said: “Everyone talks over my head, finding out from my parents or my friends how I feel and what I like. Why don’t they speak to me, when I’m standing right there, instead of asking, ‘Does Jerry want this?’”

  • How could we treat such a person differently?

A young woman who is hearing impaired said: “People greet me, then rush on. I’d feel really good if someone would start a conversation. If a person faces toward me directly and speaks clearly and doesn’t cover her mouth, I can read lips really well. I can give a response you can understand. Talking with each other—that’s how friendships begin.”

  • How could you communicate better with such a person?

Emphasize that we should always try to treat people with disabilities just as we would treat anyone else. It is very important to remember that we are more like one another than we are different from one another.

Chalkboard presentation

Explain that some people use negative, harmful terms when they talk about disabilities. Write the following phrases on the chalkboard and discuss how the phrases avoid embarrassing or hurting a person who is disabled.

  • Person who uses a wheelchair

  • Person who uses crutches, a brace, or a walker

  • Person with a mental illness or an emotional disability

  • Person with an intellectual impairment

  • Person who is deaf or hearing impaired

  • Person who has a language disorder

We should not use phrases that imply that people who do not have disabilities are “normal.” We should simply call them people who are not disabled.

Appreciating and Serving People with Disabilities


Tell the following true story about Jenny Ireland:

“‘Hello! This is Radio Halton. Jenny speaking. Are you happy and raring to go? I’ve got great things lined up for you today. But first, let’s hear some music.’

“This cheery message is the way patients in Halton General Hospital, Runcorn, England, tune in to 17-year-old Jenny Ireland, their disk jockey for several hours each week.

“What many of those patients don’t realize, as Jenny sends out bridges of comfort and hope along radio waves, is that she operates that complex equipment without the use of arms. …

“… ‘I’d like to be everyone’s friend,’ she admits. ‘My greatest ambition is to become a radio presenter, broadcasting to the public. A lot of lives can be touched that way.’

“Touching lives is something she’s already doing. Nothing is too great an obstacle. She even completed the physically demanding Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award, setting an amazing example to the rest of her school friends. The final hike in Snowdonia, Wales, was gruelling—days of trekking over mountains in all weathers, with only a compass and map to guide. Jenny also has no ligaments in one knee, which causes problems. But sheer determination keeps her going. …

“Without Jenny’s sociable nature, many opportunities for missionary work would be lost. She has a gigantic testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And she doesn’t mind who knows.

“Jenny also knows how to make people feel special. Even those embarrassed by her disablement.

“‘Sometimes children will point at me and talk behind my back or make fun. It really doesn’t bother me one bit. I just laugh. My lack of arms is no problem to me. If I believe in myself, then I can accomplish as much as the next person.

“‘There was no medical explanation for my being born this way. No one is to blame. I’ve learnt a lot about myself in seminary. I feel I have things to do, and my disability is not a trial but somehow a help to others. It’s making me a much stronger, more patient person and keeps the family close together.’ …

“‘Of course there are days when I’m blue, too,’ Jenny admits, ‘but my parents have taught me that my best friend is my Heavenly Father, and he’s always there when I need him.’ …

“School has presented many challenges for Jenny. But Church teachings and activities and loving parents and leaders have developed such self-esteem that nothing is a threat to progress” (Anne C. Bradshaw, “Bridging the Waves,” New Era, Nov. 1990, pp. 31–32).


  • How is Jenny touching and enriching the lives of others? (Sharing her strong testimony of the gospel, maintaining a positive attitude and happy spirit, helping people under-stand her disability, helping others by working in the hospital, participating in all activities in spite of her disability.)

Explain that people with disabilities, just as those without disabilities, need others to help them with things they cannot do.

  • How can we serve those with disabilities? What kind of assistance might they need?

Possible responses might include the following:

  • Helping them when they read or participate at school or church.

  • Asking them to go to school or church activities; sitting with them in classes.

  • Helping them understand appropriate ways to act in social situations.

  • Asking the person or her parents about the particular disability and what you could do to help her. For example, if the person has a seizure, what should you do?


Emphasize that all people are much the same. We need to find ways to become friends with those who have disabilities, to help them accomplish their dreams, and to honor the gifts they have. We need to apply the Savior’s counsel: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (John 13:34).

Lesson Application

Ask the young women to do the following individually or as a class:

  • Identify a young woman at school or church who has a disability or special needs.

  • Reach out to her to help her and include her in your activities.

  • Recognize the special contributions that she can make and help her participate in the school, church, and community.