If you are a parent, teacher, or clinician to a child with autism, every single day of your life is autism awareness and acceptance day. However, since April has a more formal recognition as autism acceptance month – I like to use this opportunity work on building education and acceptance of autism in the entire school community this month. As special ed teachers, we are super busy especially at this time of year so sometimes taking on another big project is daunting. But this project may be the most meaningful thing you do all year. When I incorporated this into my school community the result was honestly amazing. And I am not using that amazing word as a synonym for good. I mean I was amazed. I was amazed at hearing a second grader say that she would make sure to ask her classmate with autism if he needs a break in gym class, because sometimes she feels annoyed in gym class too. I was amazed at watching seventh grade boys make a plan to invite their classmates with autism to sit with them at lunch. I was amazed at watching my students receive warm hellos throughout every hallway of the school. I was amazed when I was at the playground with a student having a hard day and in mid-meltdown mode and a sweet little 5th grader came over and tapped me on the shoulder and said, “I have bad days too so I understand why he is mad.” A little education and open discussion can go such an amazingly long way.
The last few years, I have had the opportunity to set up the project in the schools I consult in. Every single time, that amazement comes back. It’s so exciting watching the entire school embracing our students. Even if your school already had a positive culture related to disability awareness and some great models of inclusion – this unit can provide that little bit of extra education to real put it over the edge. Our colleagues are busy in their gen ed classrooms and they may not always have the chance to answer all of these questions. The class lessons are really key in opening up a meaningful discussion.
I created this unit based on a lot of the materials that I used to do class lessons in the general education classrooms on autism. I recently updated this unit so if you purchased it in the past – make sure to redownload because there are a bunch of new goodies included! Allowing children the opportunity to ask questions and explaining autism in language they understand is imperative to creating an open environment where everyone is accepted! I highly encourage you to try this at your school! I created this Autism Awareness Unit to guide you in this important endeavor!