Monday, June 22, 2015


I have taken a summer position at a day program for adults with disabilities and I am VERY excited!!  I cannot wait to learn as much as I can about the transition from high school to postsecondary life for my students!  I am praying that I'll be an asset to this organization and the clients that they serve. While listening to their amazing schedule of activities, I began to take a look at my own class program and activities. One major question is still swirling in my mind: how much attention should I pay to what is "age-appropriate"?

Age-appropriate is defined, by my good friend Google (from Oxford Dictionaries), as "suitable for a particular age or age group". Easy enough, right? Most 18-year-olds do not like Spongebob, so it would not be appropriate for my students to enjoy Spongebob. Boom, the end. Except, there are some flaws to this logic:

  1. Some high schoolers do, in fact, like Spongebob.
  2. Who am I to tell an adult what he should/should not like?
  3. What "age" should we be concerned with: physical or cognitive?
I scroll through my Facebook news feed and see what I think would be deemed age-inappropriate things that adults with typical cognition are doing: dressing up in costumes for comic-con and renaissance faires; wearing Disney Princess shirts; participating in role-playing card/dice games; watching kids movies; dedicating entire rooms in their homes to Disney merchandise; reading kids books (okay, maybe that last one is me. haha!). And do you know why they do it? Because it makes them happy. And do you know who stops them? No one. 

On the other hand, we spend so much time and effort trying to help our students fit in with the general population, so I understand that if I have a student who carries around a Larry Boy from Veggie Tales doll, he will look different. I completely agree with helping my students become accepted by the community and know that there are some social norms that need be adhered to. There is, indeed, a time and place for everything. I also understand that I have students who do not want to be associated with being a "baby" and would not appreciate being forced to do "baby" things. This is why I feel that choice is so important within my classroom. I try to include classroom activities for the various interests of my students. To be honest, though, that might include providing materials for a student to color during choice/leisure if that's what she appreciates (and the coloring book that she purchased for herself on a community outing just might have been Dora the Explorer). I feel a little biased and definitely confused, so I honestly ask: is this wrong? Should I encourage my students to participate only in age-appropriate activities? Should I remove from my classroom the puzzles, books, and games that would not be suitable for high schoolers? What are your thoughts??


  1. Great topic! I'm in middle school. I try to get, and have available, as many age appropriate materials, puzzles and games as I can. My room is not babyish. Even if their skills are at a preschool level, I work really hard to make sure materials are not sesame Street, etc. But my students have their own interests and obsessions, that include all things Disney, musicals, Spongebob, trains, etc. If it motivates a student, I will use it. For instance, I will create math sheets with Disney characters on them, or provide a Disney movie as a reward for completing work or tasks. But this is individualized and does not permeate my classroom. So no, it's not wrong. Our students are individuals and entitled to their own interests, opinions and happiness, just like anyone else.

    1. Thank you so much, Jannike, for your response! I especially love your statement, "But this is individualized and does not permeate my classroom". Perhaps age-appropriateness is as individualized as everything else we do on a daily basis and cannot be an across-the-board type of thing. Thank you!

  2. My students are adults as well 18 - 22 and have juvenile interest (Disney princesses, cartoons, super hero's etc). I personally don't have any of those items in my room and ask the students not to bring them either. We are fortunate to be on the adult school campus so I get to remind them that they are now at "adult school" and not high school anymore. We don't watch cartoons unless they are educational and that's rarely. I've never allowed a crayon in my classroom either but I think that comes from the first day that I started here and all I was given was a bucket of crayons and a stack of coloring books and knew I would expect so much more from them. I do allow mystery pictures, the ones that have some sort of strategy to get the correct color but not actual coloring pages. I don't really think anyone misses them either. I try to make every worksheet I do look more age appropriate as well. I don't want to change who they are but I keep my kids for four years and that gives me a lot of time to teach them more age appropriate activities and behaviors while at work/school. I am honest with them and we talk to them as adults. I guess this would also have to do with your kids cognitive level. I am considered "intermediate" life skills in my program. In our emerging and basic life skills classes I see how things could be different. Most of my kids will move on to some sort of "work" based program and I feel it's my job to prepare them for that :-)

  3. Karen, thank you so much for your input! I do believe that we teach students who are potentially at different levels, but my population changes often, so I am definitely interested!! First, let me express how proud I am of you for taking what you were given and making it something wonderful! I'll bet those crayons felt like a bit of a slap in the face of those adults who were capable of so much!! I, too, feel it important to speak to my students as though they are adults (including my non-verbal and profound students). Of course, each student is different and some appreciate fewer words and such, but baby talk is off limits in our room! It drives me bonkers! May I ask what you do for literature? I am struggling with finding books that are age-appropriate, motivating, and on a first-grade level.