News: Students, families walk to support Autism Awareness Month
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune’s Johnson Primary School began their Friday morning by releasing dozens of balloons into the air and marching through the streets, holding signs to support the school’s first Autism Awareness Walk.
The 68 balloons – 67 blue and one white – symbolized how one in every 68 children in the United States is diagnosed with the disorder, according for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Of the schools’ 648 students, 34 have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The school has the largest population of autistic children in the Camp Lejeune community, according to Scott Tefft, principal at Johnson Primary school.
The teachers have been touched by this matter. According to Tefft, they have worked together to help the development of the children with autism.
“We support autistic children and their families as they navigate this lifelong journey,” said Tefft. “I’ve never seen a staff like this school. They support and bring out the best in the kids. I have seen transformations in autistic children who were nonverbal and begun to develop language. Some dramatically minimized their development of extreme behaviors.
The event continued with a rally, where students marched carrying puzzle pieces as the symbol of autism and held banners.
“Puzzle pieces are designed to represent that we all need to work with each other and communicate awareness,” said Monica Fike, a speech therapist at Johnson Primary School. “We all have to work together as a team. From the moment the child gets off the bus, everybody is involved in helping them.”
Parents of children with autism appreciated the enthusiasm and support from everybody who participated on the walk.
“Having this walk helps kids and their families understand autistic children,” said Petro McLaughlin, Autism Awareness Walk participant. “Everybody is standing together for our kids and understanding that they didn’t choose this and it is not a disease. I want my kid to finish high school in a Department of Defense Education Activity school. What my kid has experienced and gotten in this school has really helped his condition.”
Tefft noted from his own experience that he has never seen a better level of expertise than what Johnson Primary School staff members practice every day.
“This is the first Autism Awareness Walk we have hosted and we plan on making this an annual event, because of the large population of children with autism in this school and the support we have from the school community,” said Lisa Schwartz, a kindergarten teacher at Johnson Primary School.
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