Bret Harte Celebrates Autism Acceptance Month

Bret Harte Autism event with Vice Mayor assisting in tying ribbons around the school (Photo by Ross A Benson)

April is World Autism month as well as Autism and Neurodiversity month.  Burbank schools are taking the opportunity to spread acceptance and inclusion of neurodiversity through spirit days, activities, and ribbons.

Bret Harte Elementary kicked off its month-long acceptance campaign on Friday, April 1st by encouraging students and staff to wear blue in support of their fellow students.  Harte is one of two schools in the Burbank district that has a LEAP program. LEAP stands for Language Enriched Autism Program, and Harte’s program has 33 kids enrolled.  “We have learned so much about autism and these wonderful children. It’s a blessing to have them in our school community,” said Bret Harte’s principal, Martha Walter.

Every Friday for the month of April, the students are encouraged to dress up for different spirit days in an effort to educate and offer an understanding of the neurodiverse community. One example of a spirit day as presented on their flyer is: “Sensory Friendly Day.  Autistic people often have a variety of sensory sensitivities.  They may wear headphones to filter out noise, avoid foods due to their texture, or wear only certain types of clothing.  Dress up in your most comfy clothes, including pajamas!”

Bret Harte Autism event with Vice Mayor Konstantine Anthony (Photo by Ross A Benson)

On Monday, April 4th, Bret Harte students, parents, and staff met out front of the school to chalk rainbow infinity symbols on the sidewalk around campus tie rainbow tule around the trees to celebrate the beauty in the diverse spectrum of the human mind.  “Not every neurological condition is the same, which is why Autism Acceptance Month is an infinity symbol with the colors of the total spectrum,” said Dawn Poomee, Bret Harte’s PTA President. “For there to be inclusivity in our schools it requires an understanding that there are neurological differences – everyone learns, behaves, and interacts in different ways.”

Vice Mayor Konstantine Anthony joined the after-school event at Bret Harte and helped tie the rainbow tule around the trees with the faculty and families. “As the first-ever openly autistic elected official in California, I was proud to participate in the ribbon placing event at Bret Harte for Neurodiversity Month,” said Anthony. It’s so very important that as a community, Burbank is welcoming to all people regardless of race, gender, disability, or neurological type.”

Bret Harte Autism event with Vice Mayor Konstantine Anthony (Photo by Ross A Benson)

Other schools like Providencia elementary celebrated Autism Acceptance Week from March 28-April 1 by hosting dress up days like Magnificent Minds Monday as a day to wear a hat or wild hair and Sensory Friendly Friday to wear comfy clothes to school to create understanding on sensory sensitivities. 

Roosevelt Elementary will be hosting their Spring Around the World festival on April 30th from 2-6 PM and plan to include a booth that focuses on disability culture. Staff member Rachel Gumm and DEI co-chair, Jamie Kiffel-Alcheh, will head the booth and display touchable items from sensory regulation, adaptive technology, and universal design categories. “As co-chair of our DEI committee, I put the emphasis on the ‘inclusion’ part. I have a daughter in second grade who has disabilities, and I’m an advocate for kids of all abilities,” said Kiffel-Alcheh.

For resources to discuss Autism with your children at home, here is a list of 30 Best Children’s Books About the Autism Spectrum: CLICK HERE.