KINGSTON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – You may have noticed more people than usual wearing blue, on Tuesday. It was to help bring attention to World Autism Awareness Day. The neuro-developmental disorder affects one in 59 children in the U.S. Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller checked out a local school to show how it’s helping kids in need.
A teacher asked a young student, “M. How does M go?” The boy said, “Mmm”. The teacher then asked about the letter O which was next letter in the word and the boy replied “Mop” to which the teacher exclaimed, “Good job!” It’s a glimpse into a classroom at The Graham Academy which is a special education school dedicated to teaching nearly 100 students with autism. Director of Development Tara Quinn said, “Our primary focus is on education and with each child comes a very individualized plan. So all the resources required for those children are going to be different.”
Besides teachers and teaching assistants, several therapists are on hand to help students with autism develop their social and communication skills. The theme of this year’s World Autism Awareness Day is Assistive Technologies, Active Participation. But the problem families often face is finding programs like this available in their community. Ms. Quinn said, “Each student needs a form of communication and our focus is to make sure also that those children are able to communicate their wants and needs in every environment in every piece in our school.”
Some students require a notebook with programs that promote learning and communication. A teaching assistant working with a young girl with autism asked the student “Are you all done? You can click on finish.” The girl pushed a program button which said, “I’m finished.” The teaching assistant said to the student, “Good job.”
Assistive technology can lessen the obstacles autism puts in the way of kids. “He really gravitates towards any electronic device,” said Lindsay Dragon who as the mother of a five-year-old boy with autism urges families like hers to do their homework. “You just have to see what’s available in your area and then see what the best fit is for your child.”
Another aspect of World Autism Awareness Day is raising funds to support autism families. A major fundraiser is scheduled April 27, 2019 in Luzerne County.