In recognition of National Autism Awareness Month, the East Islip School District embarked on a wide-ranging awareness campaign and slate of related activities during April. Each school in the district organized informational and awareness projects as well as fundraising initiatives. Classes made posters with facts about autism and informational poster boards were displayed in the many of the schools.
“I am confident that the creative initiatives in each school truly helped to raise awareness and answer questions about autism spectrum disorders,” said Susan Kosser, the district’s assistant to the superintendent for student support services. “It was wonderful to see all students – including our students with autism spectrum disorders and other disabilities – as well as staff participating in this important initiative.”
Connetquot, Ruth C. Kinney and Timber Point elementary schools recognized World Autism Awareness Day on April 2, with students and staff dressed in colors that represent autism awareness. At Connetquot, it was kindergarten in yellow, first grade in red and second grade in blue, while all of RCK’s students dressed in blue. Timber Point students formed giant numbers on an adjacent field, with the kindergartners dressed in red, first-graders in green, and second-graders in blue. Students at the schools also colored various puzzle pieces, hung in prominent location, to represent the motto “We all fit together.”
“This was another way to bring attention to the importance of accepting everyone and collectively coming together to support each other,” said Connetquot Principal Deborah Smith.
Over at JFK, the month was celebrated with various fun and educational activities including a special “Autism Cube” donated by the EJ Autism Foundation. After students painted the different puzzle pieces on the cube, it was put on display in the school’s main lobby.
“We stressed that we are all different pieces, but fit together to make a perfect puzzle,” said Principal Aileen O’Rourke.
In addition, JFK social worker Lisa Yacovone highlighted the character trait of tolerance throughout the month, with students from grades three through five creating a bulletin board on the theme, “We are all different fish, but in this school we swim together.”
East Islip High School dedicated April 1 and 2 to autism awareness, with students from the career development program and Girls Leaders Club selling “I Support Autism Awareness” puzzle pieces outside the cafeteria during lunch periods. The puzzles were displayed throughout the school. According to school psychologist Lauren Costantino, all of the proceeds were donated to the local EJ Autism Foundation.
East Islip Middle School chose to celebrate autism awareness during the week of April 20.
“Our focus was to not only educate one another about autism, one of the fastest growing developmental disorders, but to celebrate our uniqueness,” said technology teacher Brian Heyanka. “Throughout the week, students were provided opportunities to learn about autism and embrace our differences.”
The week began at the middle school with the sharing of a video clip during science classes. Each day afterward, students were encouraged to search the building for a hidden fact. Students who recorded all of their answers or wore a shirt in support of autism were able to enter a raffle to decide an ice bucket challenge, with the end result being the selection of Principal Mark Bernard and Assistant Principal Jason Stanton to be doused with ice water.
The middle school’s Art Club created an autism awareness banner, and during lunch periods, the Best Buddies club set up an informational booth and sold bracelets to raise money for the EJ Autism Foundation, with purchasers entered into a raffle to win an autism awareness shirt.
Heyanka’s technology classes were able to utilize their Full Spectrum Laser engraver to create a stunning sign for National Autism Awareness Month. His classes watched videos relating to autism and conducted research before engraving facts and inspirational quotes about the disorder onto a huge piece of wood that was later displayed in the school’s lobby.
“Mr. Heyanka and his students did a tremendous job putting together this project,” said Stanton. “I observed the students in action and saw the excitement generated by this assignment. The students truly learned not only valuable hands-on skills, but also a deeper understanding and appreciation for individuals with autism.”
“I am very thankful that my students were given the opportunity to create something that they can be proud of, while learning about autism,” said Heyanka. “The events throughout the month served as a wonderful opportunity to share information and raise awareness.”