Disabilities Studies for Teachers


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This website offers a number of lesson plans for high school students.  All of the lesson plans are organized according to units corresponding to topics and themes in the history of disability in America.  The lesson plans can be used either individually or as a unit.Disability_symbols

Each lesson plan contains the following elements:


  • Grades.
  • Subject(s).
  • Overview (this provides a brief summary of the lesson plan).
  • Standards (all standards are adapted from Curriculum Standards for Social Studies: Expectations of Excellence by the National Council for the Social Studies or Standards of the English Language Arts by the International Reading Association & National Council of Teachers of English).
  • Objectives.
  • Questions to Consider.
  • Resources and Materials (these include links to historical source materials and resources as well as essays written specifically for this project).  Note: for external web sites, we have provided links to specific documents or sections of documents. The links will take you directly to the documents or selected pages or paragraphs. Teachers will need to instruct students which pages or paragraphs should be read. These are identified in the plans.
  • Activities and Procedures (these include assignments and exercises that can be assigned individually or as a group).

Teachers also are encouraged to consult the document “Differentiated Instruction” that provides ideas on how the lesson plans can be adapted to meet diverse learning needs.

Unit 1: Introducing Disability

This unit introduces students to disability issues, including the changing language used to refer to people with disabilities, the meaning of disability, and major disability laws.

Unit 2: Deaf Education

This unit reviews the early history of deaf education in the United States.

Unit 3: A Woman’s Crusade: Dorothea Dix

This unit examines the exposés of poorhouses by Dorothea Dix in the 1840s and 50s and President Franklin Pierce’s veto of a land grant act to provide funds to the states to establish state hospitals.

Unit 4: “Freak Shows”

This unit explores the establishment of “freak shows” in the mid-1800s and the careers of P.T. Barnum, Tom Thumb, and Lavinia Warren.

Unit 5: “Out of Sight, Out of Mind:” Conscientious Objectors in World War II

This unit examines the role of conscientious objectors (COs) in exposing conditions and abuses in state mental hospitals and training schools for people with mental retardation during World War II. During the war, approximately 3,000 COs volunteered to work at state institutions as an alternative to military service. Appalled by what they found at the institutions, the COs mounted an organized campaign to advocate for humane treatment of people with mental illness and mental retardation. The unit contains three lessons: (1) Conscience and Public Service; (2) Out of Sight, Out of Mind; and (3) Making a Difference.

Unit 6: Deaf Culture and Diversity

Unit 7: Intelligence Testing

Unit 8: Eugenics

Unit 9: Social Model of Disability




Units include the following and often include multiple lesson plans:

1. Introducing Disabilities

2. Deaf Education

3. A Woman’s Crusade: Dorothea Dix

4. “Freak Shows”

5. “Out of Sight, Out of Mind”: Conscientious Objectors in WWII

6. Deaf Culture and Diversity

7. Intelligence Testing

8. Eugenics

9. Social Model of Disability


Lesson Plans: http://www.disabilitystudiesforteachers.org/lessons.php

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