Walk In My Shoes Program (WIMS)
(May 25, 2022) Catherine Read talks with Margaret Behrns, Founder & Director of the Walk In My Shoes Program (WIMS). She started the program in 2015 at the elementary school her daughter attended in Herndon. The program offers fun and interactive activities that teach children ages 4 to 14 about specific disabilities and conditions. Moving through a circuit of experiential activities in a gym or cafeteria helps neurotypical children to experience challenges in a way they haven’t before. It plants the seeds of empathy.
The WIMS program addresses two Bullying Risk Factors: Intolerant Environments; and lack of peer support. It also addresses two Bullying Protective Factors: Providing information to peers about disabilities/medical conditions; and involving peers in considering adaptive strategies. It helps students to consider how environments contribute to challenges faced by people with disabilities. They begin to look at their surroundings with a new understanding of how place plays a role in creating accessibility or barriers.
The program has steadily grown through word of mouth via parents, counselors, special education liaisons, and teachers. Margaret is active in the Fairfax County Public Schools Special Education PTA Some of the students who went through the program in elementary school have now grown into Youth Ambassadors for this program. These highly motivated youth leaders took on expanded roles during COVID when the program couldn’t be brought to students in person.
The Walk In My Shoes Program was named a Subaru Community Champ in 2021. Here in 2022, Margaret has created the first community-based WIMS event at Open Door Presbyterian Church in Herndon, VA. It will be open to the public to attend on June 12th from 3 – 5 pm.
You can follow WIMS on Twitter: @EmpathyTools On Facebook: @WalkInMyShoesProgram On Instagram: @WalkInMyShoesProgram