Children with special needs learn how to use the crosswalk

By MICHAEL LYLE

VIEW STAFF WRITER

Students with special needs from a Foothill High School class recently were given the opportunity to learn the importance of using the crosswalk and to practice how to properly cross the street.

The demonstration was a collaborative effort between the safety coalition Look Out Kids About and the Henderson Police Department, which were invited to Foothill on Dec. 9 by Marita Lohmeyer, a teacher who works with students with special needs.

Lisa McKeon , a member of Look Out Kids About , said the organization teaches pedestrians and drivers about traffic safety.

"We focus on the two-mile radius of the school," McKeon said. "Our main focus is elementary and middle school, but we will come to anybody if they have a traffic issue. We work with all entities, and we problem-solve."

Problem solving could be anything from talking to the class about using crosswalks to setting up a police presence to catch speeders.

The group also has worked with the city of Henderson to repaint fading crosswalks and to trim branches and bushes that might block stop signs or impair drivers from seeing pedestrians who are about to cross the street.

McKeon said it is good to have a safety session specifically for children with special needs.

"It is a slightly ignored percentage of our population," McKeon said. "We have been trying to cover it in our newsletters. We have gotten responses from parents that are happy we are including information for children of special needs."

Henderson police officers Glen Hughes and Raymond Wilkins joined McKeon as they went over safety tips for the students . Students were instructed to look both ways when crossing the street and to always use the crosswalk.

"Who knows that there are laws about crossing the street?" Hughes asked the students. "The laws are so important that if you don’t follow them, I can give you a ticket."

McKeon also told the students to not run out in the middle of the street and to not stop in the middle of a crosswalk.

The group then went to the crosswalk between Foothill and the College of Southern Nevada Henderson campus, 700 College Drive.

First, Hughes demonstrated the wrong way to cross the street by staggering in the middle of the road away from the crosswalk with his eyes focused on the ground, not on the car approaching.

Wilkins drove into the intersection, slammed on his brakes and honked his horn at Hughes to show the students what can happen if they don’t use the crosswalk the right way.

Wilkins repositioned the car to approach the intersection again as Hughes crossed the right way . Hughes first looked both ways, then crossed the street on the correct side of the crosswalk. As he crossed, he looked at the driver to signify that he was aware of the car and to make sure the driver was aware of him.

The students took turns in groups to practice what they learned.

Along with learning about using the crosswalk, McKeon also explained to the students why it is important to wear a helmet when riding a bicycle.

McKeon pulled from her bag a jelly mold of a human brain for the students to touch. The eager students touched and poked the cold replica as it was passed around, giving them a sense of what a brain looks and feels like.

McKeon later picked up a watermelon and held it out at shoulder level while comparing the fruit to a human head.

"Do you know how many bones are in the human skull?" McKeon said. "There are 22. It is like a melon. It has this hard protection on it, but on the inside it is soft."

She then dropped the watermelon, which splattered on the ground. She explained how that is like a human head hitting the ground.

To show the effectiveness of wearing a head gear, McKeon placed a bicycle helmet on a second watermelon. When she dropped this melon, the helmet protected the fruit.

At the end of the demonstration, all the students received a sticker making them Junior Officers.

Even with pedestrian awareness, there also is driver responsibility.

During the demonstration, cars blasted through the intersection going more than the allotted 25 mph, even though there was a group of pedestrians and police officers on both sides of the crosswalk .

Hughes said if that is a problem , parents and teachers can make complaints to get police officers to set up stations at problematic intersections.

Residents can find more information at cityofhenderson.com/police/index.php.

Contact Henderson/Anthem View reporter Michael Lyle at mlyle@viewnews.com or 387-5201.

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