Roughly 50 students of voting age that attend the Wing Lake Developmental Center in Bloomfield Township cast their ballots for President of the United States Monday in the school's first mock election.
The election concluded a two-month long instruction unit on the presidential race and the right for individuals to vote. It's a concept that can often be overlooked when dealing severe and multi-impaired students, said SCI teacher Jessica Krull.
Wing Lake is among the few programs in Oakland County that serve students with severe cognitive impairments (SCI) and severe multiple impairments (SXI). The program provides full-day learning experiences for students ranging from age 3 through 26.
"You might have a disability, but you still have a right, you still have a voice, and we're giving them that sense of ownership," said Krull, who helped organize the event with teacher Shayleen Jorgensen.
Instruction included frequent talks about the voting process and using Nickelodean News to help brush up on the candidates and the parties they represent.
Staff transformed the school's commons area into a make-shift voting precinct with a registration table, homemade (non-partisan) campaign signs and private voting areas. Students designed their own voter-identification cards containing their names, birthdays and addresses, and turned them in to other students that doubled as 'poll workers' before entering a private booth large enough to fit wheelchairs and walkers.
Inside, they selected one of two buttons containing pictures of Democrat President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney
Just about all left the booths with a smile and a few could hardly contain their excitement, belting out "vote! vote!" on their way back to the classrooms.
"We're really trying to facilitate their communication through basic means, so they can express their opinion," said Laura Cusumano, a speech pathologist.
The entire effort took about 40 minutes and Krull said about another dozen students voted 'absentee' at Wing Lake's satellite classes in the district. All those votes will be included in the final tally.
Like the rest of us, the students will have to wait until Wednesday to find the results of their vote. But the learning doesn't end there. Krull said the final part of the lesson plan is to compare the local results between classrooms, and then with actual voting tallies in Michigan and across the country.
Using red and blue markers and bar graphs, Krull said they hope to convey to students where they fit in in the national politcal landscape.
Check back with Bloomfield Patch to see Wing Lake's 2012 election results.