April is here, meaning that Autism Awareness month is as well! April 2 is the official Day of Autism Awareness, celebrated since 2008. Better known as Autism, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a broad range of conditions that affects each child differently. In America, Autism impacts about 1 in 59 children in the United States. People on the Spectrum often face challenges with social skills, repetitive or obsessive behaviors and thoughts, anxiety, and communication disorders. Some people with ASD require a vast array of supports in their daily lives, while others may need less support and, in other cases they live entirely independently.
Within the Foran Community, there are many resources and special programs in place for our Autistic Community. Two very important figures in the school are Mrs. Susan Brzozowski and Mrs. Abby Waldera. They have helped to give more insight on the topic, helping us to all understand how great autism awareness can be for Milford and the world as a whole.
Mrs. Waldera and Ms. Brzozowski both agree that there are multiple reasons why it is important to bring awareness to Autism. One of the biggest reasons is that while people with Autism want the same things as people without it: to be liked and accepted, have friends, and achieve life milestones (e.g., a relationship, family, career), others often perceive them as “different” and may be afraid of those differences. By raising awareness about Autism Spectrum Disorders, people can realize they have more similarities than differences, which in turn will allow for more acceptance, a better life outcome for people with ASD, and the chance to celebrate diversity within our world.
Mrs. Waldera tells the unique, important, and wonderful impacts autistic children make in the world by explaining how they affect her personally, “Getting to work with students ranging in various skills, interests, and abilities is my favorite part of my job. My students help remind me what’s really important in the grander scheme of things and teach me new things each day. It can be challenging at times and there is truly never a dull moment; but they offer a unique perspective on the challenges we all face in life.”
Mrs. Brzozowski shares why she is so passionate about her job, “ I have worked with many different student populations in my career. Working with ASD students has been the most rewarding! They are constantly challenging me to think about problems and solutions in an entirely different way. I laugh every day because of the joy that they bring to my life.”
Plans for our school to participate in Autism Awareness month include asking people to wear the color blue to school on April 2 and having the Autistic kids pass out blue lollipops. Mrs. Brzozowski says that this is possible because the ASD classroom has been collecting water bottles during lunch time to both recycle and make money that will be used to buy the materials. The lollipops will have a blank paper strip attached with puzzle piece and blue ribbon on each. According to Mrs. Waldera, “These papers will either ask their recipients to write about something that makes them so unique so we can celebrate what makes each of us stand out; or it will contain a fact related to ASD.”
It is agreed by both teachers that some simple yet effective ways to beat the negative stigma that autism unfortunately carries would be continued education on the topic, increased interactions between autistic and non-autistic people, and social acceptance by non-autistic people. Will you wear blue for Autism Awareness Day?