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Peer to Peer ? Bringing autism awareness to Gladwin Jr. High

Record & Clarion - 5/9/2018

GLADWIN ? April was Autism Awareness Month and the Peer to Peer students at Gladwin Jr. High School were spreading the word. The definition of Autism or ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) according to Autism Speaks, refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by the unique strengths and differences. The advocates at Autism Speaks also state that, "We now know that there is not one autism but many types, caused by different combinations of genetic and environmental influences".

When most people think of autism, they think of Dustin Hoffman's portrayal of Raymond, an autistic savant, in the 1988 movie, Rainman. However, that is not every autistic person. There is a saying in the autistic community, "If you know one autistic person, you know one person" meaning that those with ASD are so unique in how their autism presents itself that you can not say that if you know one autistic child, you can then generalize your information to fit all students with autism. Therefore, this is why ASD stands for Autism Spectrum Disorder.

And that is where the GJHS Peer to Peer students, P2 for short, step in and help build awareness on what autism is and how it might present itself in the school environment. "The Peer to Peer students have been working hard for most of the year preparing for April and Autism Awareness Month." stated Mrs. Ruth Sandridge, who leads the group with her co-leaders Mrs. Kristine Ockerman, Mrs. Michelle Millhouse, Ms. Tracey Hagar and Mrs. Betsey Sivec. "We made Autism Awareness pins for staff members, ASD posters for the hallways, and researched to find an autism awareness fact each school day during April that was shared with the school during morning announcements."

Moreover, the P2 students had just finished a month long fundraiser selling "Good Luck O'Grams" and candy during March to raise money for Peer to Peer to use to further spread autism awareness in the school and community.

The following example shows just how important our P2 students are to GJHS. Last year a P2 student was able to help another student with autism with a situation on the bus. She became the "communicator" between the bus driver and student when a misunderstanding occurred. Due to her efforts, what could have been a "big problem" was taken care of with little fanfare. P2 students also are the first to join groups that may have an autistic student included. They are perfect for the job because of their knowledge of autism and willingness to help their fellow students. Also, once a month the Peer to Peer group has a Game Day in which both P2 students and ASD students come together and naturally learn the give and take of everyday social interaction which is commonly difficult for most autistic people. In fact, the P2 group would like to leave you with their top ten Autism Facts:

Autism is a spectrum disorder in which the most common shared symptom is difficulty with social communication such as eye contact, conversation, taking another's perspective, etc. However, according to ASD student, Owen Brown, "Autism is not a disorder it is a chance to be free." I think that there is a freedom in not thinking like everyone else, I believe that is the something extra that our autism students bring to the table and we benefit from, see famous ASD celebrities below.

People with autism also have atypical responses to sensory input, like unusual sensitivity to light, sound, smell, or taste. For example, one autistic student said that the tags on the back of shirts felt like broken glass rubbing against his skin.

Autistic people can also have "stims" or self-stimulation, such as hand flapping, toe walking, or rocking.

In 2017, 1 in 68 births resulted in an autistic child.

Autism is NOT a mental illness or a condition that will get worse over time.

There is no cure for Autism.

Boys are four times more likely to have autism than girls.

Autism is the fastest growing developmental disorder, but it is the most underfunded.

People with autism tend to be very trustworthy because they find it difficult to recognize or use sarcasm, dishonesty, or "white lies".

Autism can be a source of strengths as well as challenges. In fact there are many famous people who have been diagnosed with ASD such as singer Susan Boyle, actor Dan Aykroyd, Pokemon creator Satoshi Tajiri and film director Tim Burton. Other people have been diagnosed posthumously such as; composer Amadeus Mozart, writers; Emily Dickinson and Hans Christian Anderson, scientists: Albert Einstein, Sir Issac Newton, and Charles Darwin.


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