Every 11 minutes, a child is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Statistics show autism now affects one in 88 children. Autism is a bio-neurological developmental disease that affects areas of the brain such as social interaction, communication skills and cognitive function. The disorders commonly appear before the age of 13.
April is Autism Awareness month, and CHS will be holding events throughout the month to get people involved in this national cause. In order to emphasize a growing need for concern and awareness about autism, the autism resource program teachers Jenell Gillette and Coleman Hall have teamed up with parent Mona Zeiberg, whose son Zak is in Hall’s class.
“We talked about the idea of doing something formally to recognize Autism Awareness month,” Zeiberg said. “We wanted the students at CHS, parents and the community to have a better understanding of the program and our children.”
Students with autism have made appearances on the Daily Dose all throughout the month, a tradition which began last April.
Similar to last April, the CHS sports teams’ home games honored and supported Autism Awareness.
According to Gillete, teams “light it up blue” on the field, meaning they wore light blue or the autism puzzle symbol at one of their games to honor Autism Awareness Month. Many CHS sports teams are also promoting Autism Awareness Month by sharing some facts about autism.
Track wore Autism Speaks shirts after their run at the April 12 track meet. At the “Friday Night Spikes” track game, athletes made an announcement about autism and sold t-shirts, donating the money to Autism Speaks.
April 12 was a big day for celebrating Autism Awareness because it marked the end of penny wars. CHS raised a total of $209.78 which was then donated to Autism Speaks. In addition, the bocce ball team played a game against CHS staff, while students with autism passed out blue ribbons and candy in the gym.
CHS’ Best Buddies club is looking to recruit more people and get as many as they can to be involved. The club is an organization that pairs people with special needs with their peers.
“We are planning to do something every month, and I think this month will probably be decorating baskets for Mother’s Day,” Best Buddies officer Miranda Catsambas said.
According to Hall, the goal of educating students with autism is to “improve” their “interactions and communication skills.”
Like Hall, Gillette’s job brings her great joy because she adores working with her students.
“It’s fun working with them,” Gillette said. “It’s always a new adventure. The students are sweet, and they all have different likes and dislikes.”
Both teachers encourage the CHS community to become more educated on the special needs programs available at CHS and become involved in some way.
An Autism Awareness 5K race is held every July 4 near the Potomac Library at the intersection of River and Falls Roads in Potomac, MD. Learn more at the Autism Speak’s website.