Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Students at Gregg Middle School rallied to the cause of autism awareness this month, and in the process raised enough money to send two of their peers to summer camp.
Robin Graves, who works in the self-contained autism classroom, said the autism teachers have been working over the last few years to raise awareness during Autism Awareness Month.
They realized last year, though, that classroom teachers were getting questions from students they couldn’t really answer.
This year, they expanded their approach by providing each teacher with a handout with information about autism and by showcasing an autism fact each day on the school’s morning newscast.
In turn, students responded by raising enough money so two students can attend this summer’s Camp Good Times, the only camp in the Lowcountry dedicated to children with autism.
Principal Lori Estep said it was good for students to learn more about others at their school. The layout of the school campus is such that many students would never come near the self-contained classroom.
There are a handful of students in the self-contained classroom, the only one in the district at the middle school level, and another handful of students on the spectrum who are mainstreamed.
Estep said she recently asked the students in her mentoring group what they thought the mentoring groups could do differently next year, and one student said the groups should learn more about autism.
Simply being aware is a powerful force, said teacher assistant Tonya Thompson.
When people know a little more about autism, they’re more willing to accept people and behaviors, she said.
As more special needs people are accepted into the community, instead of being segregated, people will encounter those different behaviors in school or the workplace or the grocery store, she said.
According to Autism Speaks, one in 88 American children are diagnosed as somewhere on the spectrum, which ranges from non-verbal to above-average intelligence.