Autism awareness at school

When peers:

  • understand what makes your child different they are less likely to bully them. 
  • understand about a disability they are more likely to help. 
  • understand that your child’s actions or inactions are not by choice, they are more likely to accept them they way that they are. 
  • look past the outside of what they see in your child, they are more likely to become their friend. 

A few thoughts from Jacquie Mace, president of the Autism Society of McLean County:

I'd like to share a little about what difference autism awareness can make. In the years that my son, Austin, was in elementary school, we worked with his teachers and others in creating autism awareness programs for the entire school. We were fortunate that the school was proactive and very supportive of all kids with and without disabilities.
 
My son is moderately affected by autism, which means he has some language, but generally not real conversational skills, he doesn’t interact in a socially typical manner, and has behaviors that include, screaming and hitting. With all of this factored in, it goes without saying that he doesn’t have a typical childhood that encompasses having friends that invite him over or many that we invite over. But at school, he is accepted. He is greeted by his peers; they sit with him at lunch, play with him on the playground and go out of their way to engage him in small talk. They are tolerant of his behaviors and understanding when he doesn’t return their attempts to engage him in conversation.
 
When my son was turning ten, I thought about his birthday party and who to invite. In the past we have always invited other kids from the community who have autism also (with the exception of one very special friend - Josh), but this year his aide at school suggested we invite his “typical” peers from school. I was pretty nervous thinking that most wouldn’t show, but went along with the suggestion.
 
We mailed invites to eleven of his friends and buddies from school and in the invitation I included a list of things that Austin likes (it can be hard to buy for children with autism).
 
I can’t ell you how surprised I was when his birthday came and all 11 kids showed up for the party. What surprised me even more was that 9 out of the 11 kids brought Austin his favorite thing….an elephant. I had totally misjudged the kids, they new him much better than I gave them credit for and they had taken the time to choose a present that they knew he would like the most. The parents went out of their way to thank me for inviting them and to let me know how often their kids talk about Austin and how much they like him.
 
If that isn’t enough reason to start an awareness program at school, I don’t know what is!
 
Autism awareness - where to start?

  • Post facts about autism on large puzzle pieces around the school:
    • 1 in 8 kids have autism
    • more boys than girls are born with autism
    • autism is not contagious
    • autism is a disability that makes it hard to talk to other kids
    • having autism makes it hard to know how to play with other kids
    • some thing, like lights and noises, bother kids with autism more than they might bother you
    • everyone is different, being different is not a bad thing, we are all different
    • kids with autism look just like you and I do
    • kids with autism like to have friends they just don’t know how to make them as easy as you do
    • kids with autism have feelings just like you and I do
    • Post things that kids can do on large puzzle pieces around the school:
    • Learn about kids with autism
    • Talk to your parents about what autism is
    • Say hi to kids with autism
    • Be a good role model
    • Invite a friend with autism to play
  • Post Names of Famous People with Autism around the school:
    • Famous People with Autism:
      • Matthew Laborteaux – "Albert Ingalls" (Little House on the Prairie)
      • Crispin Glover – "George McFly" (Back to the Future)
      • Temple Grandin – Professor – Author – Architect
      • Thomas Jefferson
      • Albert Einstein
      • Jonathan Lerman – Artist
      • George Widener – Artist
      • Donna Williams – Author
      • Satoshi Tajiri - Creator of Pokémon
      • Bhumi Jensen - Thai prince
      • Stephen Wiltshire – Photographic memory Artist
    • Famous People with Autism in the Family
      • Matthew Laborteaux – Actor - "Albert Ingalls" (Little House on the Prairie)
      • Crispin Glover – Actor – "George McFly" (Back to the Future)
      • Sylvester Stallone’s son
      • Dan Marino’s son
      • William Christopher‘s
      • Will Clark’s son
      • Doug Flutie’s son
      • Hermie Sadler’s daughter
  • Ask the School Library to set books about Autism out on display through April
  • Ask to read books about Autism to the classrooms
    • Suggested readings:
      • Taking Autism to School
      • Trevor Trevor
      • A is for Autism
      • I have autism…what’s that?
      • Adam's Alternative Sports Day: An Asperger Story
      • Of Mice and Aliens
      • Wishing on a Midnight Star
      • Andy and His Yellow Frisbee
      • Ian's Walk: A Story About Autism
      • Joey and Sam
      • My Brother Sammy
      • Please Don't Say Hello
      • Looking Out My Window

* It is believed by many that Thomas Jefferson and Albert Einstein had forms of autism