The Winning 4-H Plan
Educators from Ohio have developed an awareness program for other 4-H Educators, volunteers, parents and youth in which the participants live everyday experiences that our special needs population face daily. The purpose of the Winning 4-H Plan is to create a positive environment for diverse special needs youth with caring adults to help each of them reach their fullest potential as capable, competent, caring and contributing citizens through 4-H programming.
Youth with disabilities have the right to enjoy extra-curricular activities, such as 4-H. Efforts through 4-H programming and training of volunteers needs to ensure that children with disabilities have the broadest educational opportunity available through the hands-on learning experiences that 4-H has the ability to provide. “All youth, regardless of their physical and mental conditions, need and deserve the opportunity to be involved in activities unique to their own special talents and interest. They also need to be integrated, to the greatest extent possible, with other children with and without disabilities in preparation for adulthood in a world with great diversity. For this reason, adults working with organizations such as 4-H, should be well informed about disabilities and their implication for involvement of youth” (Tormoehlen and Field, 1994). Volunteers need to understand that inclusion of special needs youth is not enough in itself, but that adaptations will need to be made, along with empathy by members and adults alike. “Inclusion means that people with disabilities have the same opportunities for involvement in meaningful and satisfying experiences as afforded other segments of the population” (Stumpf, Henderson, Luken, Bialeschki, and Casey II).
Utilizing the, “PetPALS” Curriculum to challenge youth and adults alike to experience what it is like to not be able see clearly, hear normally, or have all tactile sensations that we usually take for granted has help created awareness that talking and lecture does not demonstrate. Participants in the “Winning 4-H Plan” experience these types of sensations through a series of hands on work stations that emphasize what special needs individuals face everyday. This training helps both adults and youth to be better prepared to adapt project material and experiences and provide social skills to meet the needs of special needs youth in our traditional 4-H club program and activities. Through this sensitivity training a better understanding of the challenges this population faces is acknowledged by our 4-H youth and adult volunteers.
The goal of the program has been to better meet the needs of the special need 4-H population across the country while providing resources for Extension professionals, volunteers, and parents, so that open communication can be established for the best possible experience for these youth. “When asked specifically about people who have special challenges, the majority of Extension professional agreed or strongly agreed that learning to relate effectively with physically challenged people (68.4%) and mentally challenged people (56.3%) should be an important part of 4-H” (Ingram, 1999).
The “Winning 4-H Plan”, helps create a culture in the 4-H movement in Extension that embraces all youth and helps ensure that youth are involved in activities and programs that have a step-by-step progression of challenges so that successes can be celebrated along the way. 4-H embraces everyone and continues to strive for that level neighborhood by neighborhood, city by city and county by county.
Coleman, B.M., and Booth, N.,”4-H and the Handicapped: Volunteers’ Perception”, Journal of Extension, January 1984 volume 22, Number 1.
Ingram, P.D. (1999), “Attitudes of Extension Professionals toward Diversity Education in 4-H Programs”, Journal of Extension. Available at: http://www.joe.org/joe/1999february/a3.html.
Small Animal Interaction Programs, 4-H Youth Development, Ohio State University Extension, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio and H. M. Suthers-McCabe, D.V.M., Associate Professor, Extension Specialist Human-Companion Animal Interaction Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, Blacksburg, Virginia, copyright c2002, The Ohio State University Extension, pages 83 to 107 and appendices 183-211.
Stumpf, M., Henderson, K., Luken, K., Bianleschki, D., Casey II, M.. (2002), “4-H Programs with a Focus on Including Youth with Disabilities”, Journal of Extension. Available at: http://www.jpe.org/joe/2002april/a4.html.
Tormoehlen, RandField,W.E,(1994).“A Perfect Fit: Involving Youth with Disabilities in 4-H”. Journal of Extension. Available at: www.joe.org/joe/1994/june/a4.html.