Empathy through disability simulation

In preparation for their volunteer work at the Easter Seals Health & Wellness Fair, a group of DMU students from a variety of programs participated in a disability simulation activity.

The ‘Welcome to My World’ workshop, presented by the learning and development team at ChildServe, was an opportunity for students to briefly experience first-hand some of the challenges that their patient population might face.


Students tried buttoning shirts, tying shoes and stacking pennies while wearing socks on their hands, to simulate the experience of losing fine motor skills. They donned darkened glasses and attempted to navigate to the bathrooms with the aid of a cane. Mouths stuffed with a marshmallow, they struggled to communicate their career goals and program specifics — despite the speech impediment the situation created.


The goal was to begin to develop empathy for people with disabilities that will inform their development into competent and compassionate health professionals. The ChildServe team helped the students process their experiences after the activities, asking the students to share when they felt uncomfortable and what they learned.


“You felt like you were being judged,” said Michael Skare, PA’16, of the speech impediment simulation. “You knew what you wanted to say, and it was hard to get it out.”

Courtney Henn, PA’16, said that by trying simple tasks with socks on her hands, she learned that the adaptations patients develop to better suit their own abilities should be viewed as another “normal” way of achieving a goal.

“It’s a good reminder not to rush anyone, because you don’t know the difficulties they’re having,” said Dan Schneider, D.O.’17.

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