CV raises autism awareness High school staff, students support national campaign
BY DONNA WALKER, Correspondent
Conestoga Valley High School students know more about autism now than they did a month ago thanks to an awareness campaign led by Liza Kuhn, a history and psychology teacher.
Kuhn's son is "on the spectrum," she said. That played a part in her motivation to join the national "Light it Up Blue" campaign to raise awareness about the disorder.
"One in 88 kids is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, so it will affect more kids than we realize," she said.
History department interns Ellyn Nitsch and Jade Menkes worked alongside "Mrs. K." to educate students about the behaviors associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder during April, Autism Awareness Month.
School events culminated Tuesday with Go Blue Day, when CVHS students wore their light blue T-shirts to school and gathered for a photo in the shape of the campaign logo, a puzzle piece. About 300 students and staff gathered for the picture.
"A lot of people are affected by autism. Everyone has a personal connection, and that made them want to reach out and help," said Nitsch, a senior. Her efforts included making a paper link for a blue chain every time $2.75 was raised. She also helped make paper puzzle pieces on which students wrote their own autism-related stories.
Menkes, a junior, also helped with awareness activities and went so far as to sell T-shirts to her fellow workers at Sketchers, encouraging them to wear their light blue shirts to work.
"I want to help find a cure and make it less difficult for them. People with autism face challenges from day to day and if there's a way to make it easier for them, it'd be nice," Menkes said.
Kuhn wants students to be prepared for life beyond high school and believes this knowledge might help them when they have children.
"If they see there's a repetitive behavior, or difficulty with communication or difficulty with social interaction, they might know what it is," she said. "They can think back to when they were in high school and remember, 'I saw a video that showed a kid on the spectrum and he was successful,'" she said.
Videos were broadcast on the schools' Morning News show, a television program produced by and for students. Along with general information on the disorder, one CVHS teacher was featured talking about experiences with her autistic son.
"The students reacted very well (to the information campaign) because the teachers made it real. Seeing an interview of a student with autism," said CVHS Principal Michael Thornton, helped them understand the issue.
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