Therapeutic Day Schools of Illinois Celebrate World Autism Month with Series of Activities throughout April
Students and staff across all Camelot Therapeutic Day Schools of Illinois kicked off World Autism Month on April 1 by wearing blue to school in recognition of the “Light It Up Blue” global campaign.
“Planning for Autism Awareness Month is like planning for our version of New Year’s Eve,” said Deputy Superintendent Theresa Mortl Smith. “We begin as early as January to show support for an important purpose.”
With World Autism Month, Camelot’s Therapeutic Day Schools of Illinois continue its tradition of celebrating autism awareness each April with a new spirit of hope and kindness, particularly after COVID-19 changed the celebration last year. Last year, for the annual 1.54-mile walk – representing the fact that 1 in every 54 children are diagnosed with autism – families were encouraged to walk on their own to ensure safety.
This year, schools will celebrate together following COVID-19 and social distancing guidelines. World Autism Day is just the beginning of a month-long series of activities designed to show solidarity to a common purpose: spreading awareness about autism.
One activity, the Puzzle Piece Project, is going to take place in each Therapeutic Day School. (The puzzle piece is a universal symbol that represents autism awareness). The Puzzle Piece Project equips K-12 students with resource guides, book lists, lesson plans and puzzle piece templates to spread understanding about autism through individual expression. Each classroom and school will develop their topic for their puzzle piece design. Ultimately, each classroom and school’s puzzle piece will come together to create a final design, symbolizing unity.
In addition to region-wide activities like the Puzzle Piece Project, each individual school is carrying out its own activities for World Autism Month, including but not limited:
- Belvidere has organized an art project in which students will paint rocks with different shades of blue and hold a month-long blue foods celebration.
- Hoffman Estates will have an autism walk, build a puzzle wall and hold a door decoration contest.
- Mount Prospect will walk through a local park with student-prepared signs supporting autism awareness and will educate the community daily with autism facts of the day.
- Naperville will host a guest speaker from “Autism Speaks” and hold a spirit week from April 5 to April 9.
- Northwest Center for Autism (NWCA) staff will wear blue heart sunglasses and carry out a post-it project to highlight commonality.
- Quad Cities will hold a virtual autism awareness walk, distributing information resource booklets to families, and holding a technology lab.
- South Suburban Center for Exceptional Learners is hanging blue lights throughout the building, enjoying blue treats each Friday and holding a door decorating contest.
At NWCA, students are also designing autism-awareness-themed flowerpots and planting flowers. The school is partnering with local businesses by providing staff-designed autism awareness t-shirts and by sharing QR codes with local businesses so customers can learn more about autism.
“Our students are amazing,” said NWCA principal Niamh Welp. “This is a special opportunity for them to help spread community awareness and join together to make an important difference.”
Camelot’s Therapeutic Day schools are part of the Specialized Education Services, Inc. (SESI) network that provides academic and therapeutic services for children, adolescents and young adults, ages 3 through 21 with extraordinary needs including Emotional Disabilities, Specific Learning Disabilities, Autism, Speech and Language, Developmental Delays, Intellectual Disabilities, and Traumatic Brain Injuries.
SESI is a premier provider of education services for K-12 students who face challenges that prevent them from being successful in a traditional classroom. SESI partners with school districts to run in-district classrooms and stand-alone schools that meet the academic, behavioral, social, and emotional needs of special and alternative education students.