The Crusader

Monroe-Woodbury spreads autism awareness in April

Lamisa Tasneem, Contributing Writer

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This April was Autism Awareness Month and the high school has been doing its part to bring attention to autism, including a fundraiser by the Cozy Café. 

The Cozy Café hosted a fundraiser in which staff members could make a $5 contribution to receive a coupon for one free breakfast item. Donations went to Autism Move-a-thon of Orange Country which will use the money to help out families of autistic students. Each donor wrote their name on a blue puzzle piece that was hung up in the hallway. The puzzle piece symbolizes that the cause for autism is the missing piece that no one has been able to find yet.

Autism, also referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorders, is a neurodevelopmental disability that can cause minor to severe impairments in social, communication, and cognitive skills. Autism, like other disabilities, has many widely-held misconceptions, and this can often separate those who have the disability from the rest of society.

Life Skills teacher Ms. Robinson has worked as a special education teacher since 2003 and has taught dozens of autistic students. She explained that there is a language barrier between autistic students and other people and they must be taught social cues, such as how to respond to casual greetings, that other people would naturally pick up on. But that does not mean that autistic people aren’t capable or intelligent like everyone else, said Ms. Robinson.

“Autistic people can have an average or above average IQ,” said Ms. Robinson.

Many autistic students in the high school take Regents, Honors, and AP courses and, depending on the severity of their disability, it is difficult to tell they are any different from anyone else. 

Despite the challenges of her job, Ms. Robinson said, “I love every single thing about it. I think I have the best job in the building. It’s the best job in the world.”

The high school psychologist, Mr. Lowney, who has dealt with several autistic students in the past, expressed the importance of accepting autistic people as equals in society despite their differences.

“People with autism, they’re like us,” said Mr. Lowney, “but sometimes you have to be reminded that you have to respond to them in a different way.”

And learning how to treat people with autism is a part of spreading awareness.

High school student Kaylen Aviles has a family friend who is autistic. Aviles said the family friend had a hard time interacting with people his age and she could tell he is different.

Despite this, Aviles said, “I would treat him like the same as everyone else.”

Another student, Angela Prictoe, agrees that people with autism should not be treated any differently for who they are.

“They shouldn’t be sheltered and not involved in the community,” said Prictoe. “People may think they’re not as intelligent, but they just have a different way of expressing themselves, and sometimes they can’t because of the way they’re treated.”

Student Salvador Contreras admitted to not knowing a lot about the disorder and said that’s what makes it all the more important to spread awareness about autism.

“People often make fun of them for something that’s not their fault,” said Contreras. “Educating people would help them understand them and why they act the way they do.”

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Monroe-Woodbury spreads autism awareness in April