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Many people live with chronic illnesses, which are a type of sickness that last for a long time. These chronic illnesses can cause a lot of symptoms, but they may not be visible to other people. The purpose of this lesson is to help students understand these types of "invisible disabilities," and what life is like for people who suffer from them.

Materials Needed


Start the discussion by talking to students about what they think about when they hear the word "disability." Do they think of someone with a wheelchair, a cane or a walker? What about a person with a bad heart, or another condition that you can't see? How many people know someone who has health problems that aren't obvious to other people? Allow students to share their experiences.

Explain to the class that these types of illnesses may be called chronic. They don't go away quickly, like a cold, and they are usually something that a person will live with for a long time. In many cases, they are invisible, in the sense that other people don't always notice that the person even has a disability.

Divide students into groups of three. Give each group 12 spoons, and the Spoon Theory handout. Ask the students how they would "spend" their 12 spoons in a given day, reminding them that if they use too many spoons in a given day, they will have fewer spoons the following day. Ask them to make a list of how they will spend their spoons, and why.

Reconvene the class, and request that each group report on how they would spend their "spoons." Ask students how they decided to spend their spoons in that way. Can they imagine living life with limited energy to do basic activities? What would it feel like to have to choose between things like socializing and making and eating a meal? If they know someone with chronic illness in their lives, how can they help them use fewer spoons - or show more empathy for the choices that they have to make about their spoons?

Spotlight: Lil' Wayne

Rapper Lil' Wayne (born Dwayne Michael Carter Jr.) might be best known for his hit records and features on other artists' songs. But he also has battled a chronic illness throughout his life: epilepsy. Lil' Wayne has been hospitalized multiple times for seizures over the past several years. However, he continues to make music, tour, and collaborate with other artists.

Throughout his twenty year career, he has released 20 studio albums, been featured in 4 movies, and has appeared on 13 television shows. He has won numerous awards, including Grammy Awards for Best Rap Album, Best Rap Solo Performance, Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance by a Duo or a Group. He has also won the World Music Awards’ honor for the World's Best Selling Hip-Hop Artist.

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