To help celebrate diversity on campus, Harvest Elementary School in the Delano Union School District held its Autism Acceptance Week April 4-8.
The event took place at the same time that April was Autism Awareness Month in the United States. The United Nations-sanctioned World Autism Awareness Day was held this year on Saturday, April 2.
According to Harvest principal Janice Vargas, the week’s activities were developed and coordinated by teachers and school staff. The week began with a video answering common questions about autism that was produced by student body president Kason Abair and fellow students Julian Guzman and Salvador Morfin.
“It’s not about the label…it’s about the ability,” said a slide from their presentation.
Dress-up days of the week included wearing red to show support and acceptance on April 4, Pokemon Tuesday April 5, What’s Your Passion (areas of interest) Wednesday April 6, neurodiversity (rainbow or tie-die clothing to celebrate the beauty of the diverse spectrum of the human mind) on April 7 and Sensory-Friendly (comfortable clothing) on Friday, April 8. Staff will wear their Autism Acceptance tie-die shirts every Friday in April.
According to the organizing group, autistic school friends (students) have had very few opportunities this school year (due to COVID) to interact with students outside of their classroom. These students created Flipgrid videos to introduce themselves and talk about some of their interests. Students and special education staff also made quick visits to classrooms at the end of each school day to introduce themselves and share a treat.
Teachers received books to read aloud in class, as well as links to video books. They also worked with their students in their classrooms to use the theme of autism acceptance to decorate school hallways with themed student work, for which prizes were awarded to the best grades kindergarten to first grade, second to third grade, fourth to fifth grade. and special education. A poster competition involving individual students was also held.
“This Autism Acceptance Week gave our school and community a chance to shine a light on our autistic friends and celebrate diversity,” Vargas said.
Mike Bledsoe is the Director of Child Development for the Delano Union School District.