Creating a Culture of Acceptance

April 2, 2012
Chelsea Budde

Yes, today is World Autism Awareness Day.  It's a day recognized by the United Nations as having significance to draw attention to the plight of individuals with a brain-based difference that impacts the way they experience the world.  So many have chosen to show their support by displaying the color blue - in their choice of clothing, exterior lighting, and even in their hair!

One school stands out to me as a particular example.  Swanson Elementary (Brookfield, Wis.) has really capitalized on the idea of home-school collaboration.  At the urging of a mother of a student with autism and with the support of other staff members, the school opted to ask the students to wear blue today (their school spirit wear is blue), use sidewalk chalk to create puzzle pieces and a supportive message, hang a blue banner in the foyer, and switch the dusk-to-dawn lighting outside to blue.  They also hosted a Good Friend assembly for their 2nd through 5th grade students, with payment coming from the school parent-teacher organization as well as district funds.

This is a school committed to a culture of acceptance.  They're not just creating a lunch bunch (which is great, but not campus-wide) and teaching social skills to those students with related goals in their IEPs.  They're not only teaching the staff about autism, but also allowing professionals to talk with all students about pro-social behavior on a day where positivity about autism might be hard to find.  (With the diagnostic prevalence of ASD in the U.S. creeping up to 1:88 children per the CDC, many have reacted with fear and anger.)  Swanson is working with families, administrators, staff, and students to send a message, loud and clear: "We accept you, students with autism.  You are a valuable part of our community, worthy of our support."

That we are all reminded about autism today in shades of blue is wonderful.  Now shine the light of acceptance on those who are aware by your example and leadership.

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