Washington Elementary continues to celebrate Autism Awareness month throughout the month of April, with special events and hands-on activities to boost awareness for the entire student population of the school. Like last year, the school gathered for World Autism Awareness Day on April 2.
“We encouraged all of the students in the entire school to wear blue shirts to show our school’s support for autism awareness,” commented Chandra Collins, a special education teacher at Washington Elementary. “Since we have this specialized program, we try to educate all of the students about autism, while also encouraging compassion and understanding of differences.”
Collins teaches one of the Language Enriched Autism Program (LEAP) classes at the school, the only elementary school in BUSD with the program
On April 10, families and children gathered for a free PTA-sponsored concert and picnic in the evening, with about 75 people attending. Nationally-touring reggae act Rhythm Child performed. The group, which has also performed at the White House 2011 Easter Egg Roll, brought various kinds of drums for children to play during the concert. The group performed reggae and classic rock tunes.
“It was a fun and successful school event. We tied it into Autism Awareness Month, and Mrs. Young, the principal, and I briefly spoke about autism and how its occurrence has increased to 1/68 children being affected,” said Collins. “Most people wore blue to support autism awareness, and many families whose children attend the LEAP classes at Washington came and had fun.”
“The highlight of the event was when the lead singer, Norman Jones, dedicated a song to one of my students, Kevin Georgelos, Jr.,” added Collins. “They played the song ‘Can We Still Be Friends,’ which he likes to listen to at school.”
“It seemed a fitting song that helped celebrate why were there, honoring differences and friendships. Kevin Jr. had a big smile on his face and enjoyed the song with his family and his friends from school.”
Students have decorated paper puzzle pieces, the common symbol for autism, and the artwork currently lines the Washington Elementary hallways. Each class at the school has collected questions from students about autism and the LEAP teachers answer a few questions at every Friday morning assembly throughout April.
Teachers at Washington Elementary are also sent videos every week which provide basic information about autism and similarities and differences between typical and non-typical kids. The teachers are encouraged to show the videos to their classes each Friday and follow up with class discussion.
At the end of April, the school plans an assembly to show a slideshow of the month’s school-wide, autism awareness events.
“We, the teachers, want to let the students share what they have learned this month,” said Collins.