KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -- Students at Westridge Elementary School are working to bring awareness during Autism Awareness Month while teaching the importance of inclusion.
“Hi, my name is Alexi,” is heard on the intercom. “And sometimes people on the spectrum need silence because they absorb everything that’s happening with all five senses.”
Beginning each morning, students read facts about autism over the announcements.
The idea came from 9-year-old Mariah Turner, whose brother has autism.
“I came in one day and Mariah had presented to me a written proposal,” principal Matt Jones said.
In the letter to her principal, Mariah explained she wanted everyone to understand what autism is. She even compiled ideas and resources of how the school could go about it.
“I was kind of floored and blown away,” said Jones. “And also, not surprised because that’s just who Mariah is.”
Mariah says she wants people to be more welcoming and accepting of students with the disorder.
“Some people actually get bullied because some people are non-verbal who have autism,” Mariah said. “And autism is also a disability that causes issues with communicating and building relationships. Basically, everything that involves social skills.”
Mariah spoke to classes and recruited 11 other students, all of which have given up their recess for multiple weeks to research facts or create puzzle pieces they can hang around the school.
“Our students are pretty amazing, so it never ceases to surprise me when we see the heart and compassion of who we are,” Jones said.
According to Jones, they’ve received an overwhelming response from parents and others throughout the community over what the students are doing. They’ve also received many touching comments from parents who have children on the spectrum.
In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control determined approximately 1 in 59 children are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.