Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Autism Awareness – Show Appreciation!

April is Autism Awareness Month.  I always think it is bizarre to have a month dedicated to a particular cause; are we not aware the other 11 months out of the year?  We should be!  However, I do appreciate the sustained awareness throughout the month of April.   Now more than ever, we need to be aware of Autism.  New studies show that 1 out of every 68 children will be diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  This is something we all need to consider, and support ongoing efforts to understand Autism and the effects it has on families.  

Our school is doing many things to bring awareness to our community:

·         On April 2nd our entire school was wearing blue.  We Lit It Up Blue for Autism Day!
·         Student and staff will be “Lighting It Up Blue” each Friday throughout the month.
·         Daily student led video announcements will provide facts about Autism.
·         We will be sending weekly e-alerts to our parents, highlighting facts shared during video announcements. 
·         Links (student group learning about and supporting our students with ASD) will provide Autism Awareness ribbons/puzzle pieces- some colored, some have facts to decorate the halls of our school.
·         Student created Wordles/Tagxedos about Autism will decorate the halls. 
·         Students will be selling Autism Awareness bracelets at lunch time to spread awareness. 
·         Teachers will be provided with resources from our ASD teachers to support awareness in the classroom. 

We are looking forward to the many learning opportunities.   More importantly, this is a perfect time to reflect, and say thank you!  It is a time to appreciate those who support people with Autism each day. 

We appreciate our ASD teachers! 
The ASD teachers at our school are amazing!  Their approach is one of relational trust, built on consistency and understanding, supporting an empathetically calm and inclusive environment.  We are lucky to have such caring individuals who love their students as if they were their own children.  They are terrific models for all of us, supporting our professional growth and increasing our understanding of Autism.  Thank you!

We appreciate our classroom assistants and professional support staff!
You support our students each and every day with a smile, utilizing effective strategies, brainstorming as a professional learning community and taking the lead to support classroom teachers and our students with ASD in all settings.  Your presence during lunch and recess is incredibly helpful; not only do you monitor behaviors and interactions, but you play and interact with your students, encouraging and modeling relationships with others in a fun and safe manner.  Thank you!

We appreciate our classroom teachers! 
You encourage all students to be part of your classroom, creating a family environment.  You model and coach your class on the effective ways to support and communicate with our students with ASD, encouraging interactions and working as a team to enhance a diverse community of all leaners.  You teach that fair isn’t always equal and that students do not always get the same thing… they get what they need!  You work collaboratively with ASD teachers, parents, and support staff to enhance your learning environment, making it conducive for all learners.  Thank you!

We appreciate our students! 
The caring, understanding, and willingness to support your peers truly makes our school a unique place.  You are patient and helpful, joining our Links program (peer to peer student group learning and supporting autism) and befriending students with ASD and many other students who have diverse learning styles without judging.  Thank you!

We appreciate our parents of our students with Autism!
Thank you for supporting us and providing the school with your experiences.  We appreciate working together, supporting each other and learning about you and your family.  Thank you for being trusting and understanding that we don’t have all the answers, but we are working hard to support you and your children, making our school the best possible place for socializing and learning.  Thank you for being brave and teaching others about Autism.  Know that we all care about you, your wonderful children and your family.  Thank you!

Most importantly… We appreciate our students with Autism!
You make our school and community a better place to learn.  You have taught us all how to be better at listening, modeling, reacting, and supporting.  Thank you for teaching us that behavior is communication, helping us understand your learning style.  Thank you for teaching us that you can sense much more than you can communicate, allowing us to encourage you to do great things.  We appreciate your energy, passion, and courage.  Your smile is contagious and can light up our halls and classrooms.  For that… We all say 

So, as April comes and goes, take time to thank someone who has been touched by Autism.  It might not change what they are going through but it will show them love, which we all need in April and throughout the other 11 months of the year. 

Thank you for reading!

Keith Howell
Be positive and passionate about the greatest job in the world... teaching children!  

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