News Article Details

Raising autism awareness

Grand Haven Tribune - 4/20/2017

April 20--SPRING LAKE TWP. -- The powerful smell of Limburger cheese greeted Jeffers Elementary School students when they walked into a classroom this week.

The stinky cheese, a strobe light and radio static were among some of the elements in the "sensory overload room" activity that was geared toward helping the kids understand the sensitivity some individuals who live with autism experience.

Throughout the month of April, Jeffers Elementary School is placing a special focus on raising the awareness and understanding of autism.

"We just want to start the conversation," said special-education teacher DeAnn Carpenter.

Students kicked off the month by decorating a puzzle piece to represent what makes them unique.

Throughout the month, there will be designated jean days when students and staff can donate money to wear jeans. Money will be donated to either Autism Support of West Shore or the peer-to-peer support efforts at Jeffers.

Students are also driving the efforts to get engaged. The school's Student Council created events to raise awareness, which include buying and wearing a blue mustache for $1 on April 21, and buying and wearing a blue ribbon for $1 on April 28.

After entering the "sensory overload room," autism preschool teacher Elizabeth Carson spoke with classes about what they encountered. For some, the smell was overwhelming, and others said they couldn't see well enough to write their name and answer a math problem they were asked to solve.

Carson explained that some individuals who live with autism have senses that are more sensitive.

School staff members said parents can also help continue the message at home by talking to their children about what they're learning in school and consider participating in the Autism Support of West Shore 5k-10k Puzzle Run on Saturday, April 22, in Walker.

"The more we understand their perspective, the easier it will be to accommodate them, teach them and be compassionate," Carpenter said.


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