Understanding Autism: Locals raise funds, awareness for autistic students
Pike County News-Watchman - 3/24/2018
For the past three years, retired Western Schools Superintendent Terry Leeth and her son Josh and daughter-in-law Andrea, who works at Waverly Junior High School, have attempted to make Pike County a community that is more autism-aware by selling t-shirts to local schools and individuals, then presenting the money raised to local schools so that they may purchase items needed for their students with autism.
"We run the money through Kiwanis, then the schools can make a request for items," said Terry Leeth. "April is Autism Awareness Month, so we are gearing up for another year. We have our design, and Pam at Sport-N-Shoes will be making the t-shirts as soon as I distribute and pick up the order forms from the schools."
To date, Waverly Area Kiwanis, BZ's, Sport-N-Shoes, and all four school districts in Pike County have shown support for their efforts, said Andrea.
"Each year, t-shirts are purchased by community members in Pike County," she said. "The money raised by t-shirt sales is put directly back into the classroom for students on the autism spectrum. Teachers can call and request materials or supplies for their students. In the past two years, we have been able to pay for the requested items. We place forms in the schools for teachers to fill out to make a request. School administrators have also been contacted about how to request, or teachers are free to call and make a request themselves."
Leeth says her family "has seen the need for more funding and resources for students on the autism spectrum in the classroom."
"We are hoping this is a way to help," she said. "Several of us are educators as well as family members of someone on the autism spectrum. We want to make sure that each student with autism has the opportunity to be successful in the classroom. It is rewarding to know that we are helping to create a more successful learning experience for students on the autism spectrum."
Getting the word out is the biggest challenge, said Leeth.
"It is important for us just to let educators know that these funds are available," said Leeth. "Although autism is a growing developmental disorder, many people have yet to understand the complexity of it."
Leeth says it is important to know the possible signs of autism, which include the following (from autismspeaks.org):
Avoiding eye contact and preferring to be alone
Struggling with understanding other people's feelings
Remaining nonverbal or having delayed language development
Repeating words or phrases over-and-over (echolalia)
Getting upset by minor changes in routine or surroundings
Having highly restricted interests
Performing repetitive behaviors such as flapping, rocking, or spinning
Having unusual and often intense reactions to sounds, smells, tastes, textures, lights, and/or colors
"T-shirt sales alone help keep funds in the account to be used in the classroom for students on the autism spectrum, and we hope to add more fundraising opportunities in the future," said Leeth. "If anyone would like to order a t-shirt this year, they may call Terry at (740) 222-4770 or Jo at (740) 835-1005. Teachers are free to call and request items for their students as well."