By Jolie Freedman
Why is April such an important month of the year? It’s because April is Autism Awareness Month! Autism Spectrum Disorder is a condition that inhibits basic social abilities, behaviors, and communication skills. There are many different types of autism, but autism in general is a prevalent disorder that affects 1 in every 68 children in the United States. Despite what some may think, people with autism are just like everyone else. Those diagnosed with ASD enjoy regular hobbies and just want to feel accepted.
In honor of this month, HSE hosted their annual Light it Up Blue Day. On April 3rd, both HSE students and faculty members donned their brightest blue clothing in order to show off their support, understanding, and acceptance of those with ASD. Our school was not the only place that emphasized the importance of autism awareness on this day, though. People all over the world “lit up” in blue attire as well! This day is known as World Autism Day, and its purpose is to support autistic people and their families. Even though World Autism Day is technically celebrated on Sunday, April 2nd, HSE continued the festivities on Monday, April 3rd so students and faculty members could show their unified support to their classmates and students, respectively. This nascent tradition of commemorating Autism Awareness Day began 9 years ago. Over the past 9 years, celebrations have spread throughout the world. The White House and the Empire State Building were even lit up in blue color to manifest their support. Hopefully, this annual day will help continue to facilitate imperative awareness and research that can one day lead to better treatments and maybe even a cure. Autism Speaks, an international organization, aspires to help others understand and accept those with autism. Aside from just spreading awareness on this day, people also celebrate the special and astounding qualities of people with autism.
After World Autism Day, many people have been asking themselves, “What can I do to help?” In fact, there are tons of different ways to help out the autistic community! One way to help is through Best Buddies, a club at High School East. This club aims to make kids with autism, and other types of disabilities, feel more accepted and comfortable by providing them with a friend in a safe and fun environment. There are also many opportunities to get involved outside of school. Mackenzie Gosset, HSE junior, helps out by teaching dance to kids with autism and special needs at her dance studio, Jam Dance and Fitness Center. Mackenzie says, “Working with the kids at my dance studio has provided me with insight into their worlds and shown me that they just want to have fun and feel welcomed the same way we do! I hope Autism Awareness day helps others to understand the importance of supporting kids with Autism.” Students and adults can also become involved with Autism Speaks. Visit autismspeaks.org to make an easy donation that will fund search grants and programs, such as Autism Treatment Network. Autism Speaks also hosts walks, cycle rides, and swimming triathlons in order to raise money. Moreover, anyone can host their own personalized fundraiser!
One way that I get involved is through the NY Friendship Circle at the Chai Center. Friendship Circle runs multiple programs, such as zumba, hip hop clinics, bowling buddies, friends at home, soccer stars, and teen scene. With so many programs to choose from, each kid is bound to find one that they enjoy! The Friendship Circle has been an eye-opening experience for me, and it is such a fun and enriching way to help make all kids feel special and accepted. Stephanie Bigman, a volunteer at the Friendship Circle, says, “My involvement at the Friendship Circle has give me the opportunity to create amazing friendships while helping kids enjoy activities that are not always available to them. Going to the Friendship Circle programs is always a highlight of my week as I get to see huge smiles on these kids faces and make a difference in their day.” Another easy way to make a difference is to just talk to someone with autism at school and become their friend. Making someone feel accepted and welcomed can go a long way.
I hope that HSE’s involvement with autism awareness will continue to inspire both students and adults to “go blue!” every day of the year.