WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah (ABC 4 Utah) – A local elementary school is promoting autism awareness, Friday, with a day dedicated to the disorder.
When it comes to special education, Whittier Elementary School has it down.
In addition to standard K-6 classrooms, the school has also become what Principal Lynette Golze calls a ‘wraparound services hub’ for kids with physical and mental disabilities.
“Most of the classrooms have four to six para educators in them here in our building. There’s one classroom that has even more than that,” she explained.
Friday morning, as part of Autism Awareness Month, students in the six classrooms of the school’s middle wing focused not on what they can not do, but instead, what makes them unique.
“We’re just celebrating autism and all that comes with it!” smiled Jenifer Christensen, a special educator.
The day was jam-packed with colorful sights, sounds, smells, and more, since people on the spectrum often have difficulties processing sensory information.
“We had a shaving cream balloon fight, so I’m all shaving creamed,” Christensen laughed.
Teachers also invited friends from the community, including an autistic adult who has learned to function well on his own. He graced the kids as The Cat in the Hat.
Teachers say it is the most joyful day of the year for kids who have so much to offer but often too few opportunities.
“A lot of these times, these kids throughout their lives get overlooked,” said Caitlin Ingram, a functional life skills teacher.
That is why they are now asking others to celebrate differences, too.
“When you see a person with a disability, you should go up and say ‘Hi’ or wave at them or smile at them. Don’t shy away from them. Don’t be scared of them. Sometimes, they might shy away from you, especially if they have autism, and then give them their space and respect that, but I think it’s always better to make an effort,” she said.