Tsé Bit A'í Middle School (TBA) has been raising awareness for autism during the entire month of April. Morning school announcements have included information about famous people and fictional characters with autism. Teachers received autism training and students recognition for their art on the subject. All of this in recognition of Autism Awareness Month.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental disability; signs typically appear during early childhood and affect a person’s ability to communicate, and interact with others.
“My student’s parents and I set out to educate as many members of our school community as possible,” said Lori Swanson, autism classroom teacher at TBA. “April is Autism Awareness Month and since TBA has its first autism classroom this year, we decided to go all out to celebrate it.”
To prepare for the events to come, Ms. Swanson and parent volunteers spent the last weekend in March decorating the school with puzzle pieces in primary colors, a common and recognizable symbol in the autism community of the disorder. The puzzle pattern reflects the mystery and complexity of autism. The different colors and shapes represents the diversity of people and families living with this disorder.
A bulletin board was added to the entrance of the school to educate about the early signs of autism. Lesson plans to teachers followed, as well as information about the students with autism who currently attend TBA.
Students were encouraged to greet ASD students by name and with a high five. There was also a fun student poster contest.
Julesia Seaton won the contest with her anime style drawing of a student with wings made of puzzle pieces. The 8th grader’s poster is being displayed at the school’s main bulletin board and 50 t-shirts were made with the drawing and the words “Embrace the Differences” on the sleeve.
“I just wanted it to be colorful,” said Julesia Seaton. “I wanted to show how happy they are.”
During the second week of April, over 200 blue snow cones (royal blue is the color of autism awareness campaigns) were given out to students and staff that participated in greeting the ASD students by name and with high fives. School staff, including the Special Education department, administrators, and custodians wore t-shirts with Julesia’s winning design.
And TBA is still celebrating.
This week, Tsé Bit A'í Middle School has an Embrace the Differences Glow Dance planned, before ending the month by wearing blue again.
Why Autism Awareness Month?
One out of 68 children are currently being diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The purpose of Autism Awareness Month, like the Breast Cancer or Heart Disease Awareness months, is to educate the community about the early signs of the disorder so interventions can be implemented as early as possible. Research has shown the sooner a child is diagnosed with autism and begins therapy the better the eventual outcome is for that child.
Online Links to Autism Resources