Today (Thursday, April 2nd) is World Autism Awareness (or Acceptance if you prefer) Day, and April is Autism Awareness month.
Nationally, 1 of every 68 children are now affected by autism.
Here in Huntsville, that number is worse. 1 of every 62 children in Huntsville City Schools is on the autism spectrum.
To put it mildly, autism has had a significant impact on the city of Huntsville.
Across the district there are 20 self-contained autism classrooms (eight elementary, five middle school, and seven high school). That’s a total of at least 20 teachers in Huntsville City Schools.
In addition to those 20 self-contained classrooms, there are also about 12 collaborative teachers in the district who work with students on the spectrum who are not in self-contained classrooms.
There are also at least three fantastic people working specifically on autism in the HCS central office.
This doesn’t count the excellent aides and therapists who assist in the self-contained and collaborative settings. I would guess there are about 80-90 aides who are working specifically with those on the spectrum.
Autism Awareness Day Thank You
I write all of this to simply say, thank you.
Thank you for being willing to help those who often don’t speak to learn how.
Thank you for your boundless dedication to helping our kids become the best that they can become.
Thank you for always coming to work because you know that when you’re out our kids’ entire week can be disrupted and basically lost.
Thank you for the endless late nights and weekends you spend working with SETS and then re-working with SETS when it crashes and loses all of your data.
Thank you for putting up with people like me, your parents, who are constantly in your face giving you grief about something.
Thank you for always being willing to come and support your kids, our kids, at events like the Autism Walk or the Sensory Bounces, or our birthday parties (which are sometimes sparsely attended).
Thank you for dancing, singing, bouncing, stomping, clapping, winking, high-fiveing, and “playing” (which is the best and truest form of teaching) with our kids.
Thank you for never, ever, ever giving up on our kids even when they scratch you, bite you, hit you, kick you, run away from you, wipe their nose on you (or other bodily functions that need not be mentioned here).
I have been around educators my entire life in nearly every setting imaginable, and I have never known a group of educators more willing to do the impossible than those who are regularly working with our kids on the spectrum.
And so, since the Huntsville City Schools Board of Education failed to mention World Autism Awareness day tonight despite having 45 minutes of “Celebrations,” and despite having a board member remind us that “it’s prom season, be safe,” I say thank you for helping to educate our kids, to educate us your parents, to educate other students, teachers, principals, superintendents and board members about autism.
On Autism Awareness Day, you, our teachers, are true heroes deserving of our praise, our celebration, our thanks and our love.
Thank you ASD teachers here in Huntsville and everywhere.
We could not do this without you, and your efforts have not gone unnoticed by this parent and countless others I know.