April: Autism Awareness Month
Have you seen people walking around with puzzle piece pins on their shirts? These people are reminding us that April is national Autism Awareness Month. During April, parents, students, and educators all over the country band together to support autism awareness and research. The symbol for autism awareness has been selected as a puzzle piece, which I think is fitting for so many reasons! Autism’s causes are a puzzle. Its mechanism is a puzzle. Behavior of people with autism can be very puzzling as well. Additionally, a puzzle piece is an integral part of a whole, just as people with autism are an integral part of our communities. While autism itself is puzzling, one alarming statistic isn’t: one in every 150 children in this nation will develop autism or a related developmental delay by age three. We owe it to students and families currently living with autism as well as our future students to use April as a springboard for advocating for research on this mystifying condition.
According to the Autism Research Institute, one of the most prominent organizations in the United States devoted to autism education and advocacy, “Autism is a severe developmental disorder that begins at birth or within the first two-and-a-half years of life. Most autistic children are perfectly normal in appearance, but spend their time engaged in puzzling and disturbing behaviors which are markedly different from those of typical children. Less severe cases may be diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) or with Asperger's Syndrome (these children typically have normal speech, but they have many "autistic" social and behavioral problems).”
My school, which also houses a District 75 school (in New York City, the most-restrictive ‘alternative’ placements in special education are centralized in this aggregated district, which generally runs small schools in the same buildings as more traditional schools), will participate in performances by classes including students with autism and run bake sales, ice cream sales, and sales of puzzle piece pins. We will donate the money that is raised to autism awareness and advocacy organizations.
If you are interested in autism research and would like to learn more, check out www.autism.org. It serves as an umbrella resource site for many of the best autism resources available on the web. Also, stay tuned later this month for my thoughts on autism in the classroom. How does your school recognize and honor autism awareness month? Share your resources and ideas directly using Mozilla Firefox or alternatively, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. With your permission, I will post your question or comment and respond on my blog.