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Smile, Don’t Stare

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Creating Inclusion for Children Living with Disabilities

In the United States, nearly 3 million children ages 5 to 17 are living with a disability. Far too many of these children and their families feel isolated from others in their community. In many cases, it is not the disability that causes the isolation, but the physical barriers or hurtful treatment of others.

While physical barriers can’t always be overcome, negative attitudes can. Every day, people living with disabilities find themselves being stared at— simply because they look or act different. While often a harmless curiosity, these stares can contribute to the isolation that a child and his or her family may feel.

Change Starts With the Simplest Action: A Smile.

The Smile, Don’t Stare campaign is working to turn those stares into smiles. Everyone knows the universal power of a smile in connecting with dear friends or distant strangers. And for a person living with a disability, a simple smile can help shift the tide from exclusion to inclusion.

Help Us Build a Movement.

It is OK for a person to be curious when they first meet someone with a disability, and it is common to feel unsure about what to say, or how to act — afraid, perhaps, of saying the wrong thing. The Smile, Don’t Stare campaign is designed to help people better understand, and communicate with those living with disabilities.

On Tuesday,May 6, 2014, The Lollipop Kids Foundation along with Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett launched the Smile, Don’t Stare campaign at Imagination Stage in Bethesda. The launch featureed a panel of disability and inclusion experts including:

  • Chuck Short, Special Assistant to Montgomery County Executive
  • Andraéa LaVant, Inclusion Specialist, Girl Scouts Council of the Nation’s Capital
  • Dr. Gwendolyn Mason, Director of Special Education Services, Montgomery County Public Schools
  • Diane Nutting, Director of Access and Inclusion, Imagination Stage
  • Chase Phillips, Financial Advisor, Merrill Lynch
  • Steve Riley, Executive Director, Potomac Community Resources

The County Executive also declared May 6 Smile, Don’t Stare day in Montgomery County with an official Proclamation.

Photos by Laura diCurcio, courtesy of Imagination Stage

Let’s Start Today.

There are many ways to join the movement, but the first action is simple: the next time you meet a person with a disability, look directly at them and smile.

Take the Smile, Don’t Stare Pledge

Together we can shift the tide from isolation to inclusion. Take the pledge, and join the Smile, Don’t Stare movement.

Please provide only the information about yourself you feel comfortable sharing online. Your age will not be displayed online.

Other Ways to Get Involved

  • Our educational curriculum and conversation guides will be available soon for parents and teachers
  • Business owners will also soon be able to sign up for a disability etiquette workshop for their employees
  • Everyone can spread the word and join the conversation on the Lollipop Kids Foundation Facebook page or on Twitter @lollipopkidsfnd and by using #SmileDontStare
  • If you are interested in sponsoring the campaign or exploring more of the free, educational resources, please email info@lollipopkidsfoundation.org or call (202) 640-2035