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Accepting Differences and Showing Kindness

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Washington Drive Primary School and Thomas J. Lahey Elementary School in the Harborfields Central School District celebrated Autism Awareness Month with a variety of educational and interactive activities on April 9.

            Students in Kelly Lewis and Michelle Kasin’s classes at Washington Drive gathered together to read “Since We’re Friends: An Autism Picture Book” by Celeste Shally. Then, they used brightly colored pieces of paper to create a puzzle piece, representing the complexity of autism and the diversity of those living with the disorder.

            At Thomas J. Lehay, speech-language pathologist Gina Holm led in organizing the autism awareness activities. For example, she put together slides for teachers with information about autism and kindness-focused activities to incorporate throughout the week, such as students reaching out to new friends to join them during recess.

            Additionally, health teacher Sue Crispino incorporated an autism-related lesson and activity during each of her classes. First, students watched a video about what autism is and stressed the importance of accepting others even if they may be different. Then, students were put in pairs and tasked with asking each other questions about themselves. The goal of the activity was to find and appreciate differences with one another, while incorporating an overall theme of kindness. 

            “While autism awareness is a goal of our efforts, we also strive to keep kindness at the center of all of our lessons,” Ms. Holm said. “An overarching message of autism awareness is embracing that we are all different and everyone always deserves kindness.”

            Washington Drive and Thomas J. Lahey students also decorated puzzle pieces to create one cohesive mural with the theme “We All Fit Together.” Each mural is displayed in the front hallways of the school buildings. In addition to decorating the puzzle pieces, students and families were invited to donate to Autism Speaks, the largest autism research organization in the United States. In total, over $200 was raised for the organization.