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The WHS Circle of Friends peer mentoring group organized many activities in April in recognition of Autism Awareness Month.

WHS Circle of Friends brings attention to Autism Spectrum Disorder

Group organizes numerous activities in recognition of 'Autism Awareness Month'

In celebration of Autism Awareness Month in April, many activities were held to shed light on the varying components of autism.

Circle of Friends (COF), which is a group of peer mentors who are good social role models, chosen to interact with students that have difficulties socializing on a regular basis, went around to each homeroom and did a presentation to raise autism awareness.

They focused on details such as: what autism is, how it is caused, the components of autism, how to help support individuals with autism, and they also encouraged students and staff to refrain from using the “R-word,” as it is offensive and there are a multitude of other words that can be used in its place.

During lunch, students had the opportunity to sign a pledge to stop using the “R-word.” An invitation to wear blue on Thursday, April 2 was also made, as blue represents the increased number of boys diagnosed with autism.

Upon the completion of the presentation, participants were asked to write something that they learned on a puzzle piece. The purpose of the puzzle piece is to reflect the mystery and complexity of autism. The puzzle pieces were then hung in the cafeteria, creating a tree symbolizing that autism awareness is growing.

WHS Teacher Nicole Burg commented on the presentation: "I was very impressed with the way the Circle of Friends’ mentors addressed the social issues around autism head on. Their candid portrayal of what it means to be a friend to someone with autism opened up some great conversations and broke down some walls I know existed in our school."

T-shirts were also designed and available for purchase by staff, students, and the community. All proceeds were donated to Autism Action Partnership (AAP). A second order of t-shirts was even made due to the increased interest.

District staff members were asked to donate a dollar to wear jeans, with those funds going to AAP as well.

AAP is a non-profit organization whose goal is to improve the quality of life of persons on the Autism Spectrum and their families through education, advocacy and support, thereby enabling them to be an integral part of the community. They so graciously provide a district grant for the Circle of Friends program to effectively provide social activities and support throughout the school year.

On Thursday, April 2, which was World Autism Awareness Day, the entire student body made their way to the Performance-Learning Center, where they watched a video, Just Like You, that focused on the components of autism, and what it feels like to have autism.

“I felt that the video was powerful,” commented WHS senior and COF mentor Maddy Partridge. “You could see on the faces of the students that they understood and expressed emotion during the video. The students seemed to express concern and understanding.”

The video is posted below:

COF peers are the eyes and ears in place of adults in the locker rooms, hallways, and cafeteria, on the bus – places where inappropriate social interactions are likely to take place.

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WHS Circle of Friends brings attention to Autism Spectrum Disorder

Kathy Lewismklewis@esu2.orgYutan Public Jr. Sr. HighSPED teacher

May 06, 2015

Fantastic ideas! We have a small Circle of Friends here and would love to meet up some time for an activity. Give us a shout!