April 1 provided a long awaited taste of spring. The day was not only sunny and almost mild, but it marked World Autism Awareness Day, which thousands of people across the nation recognized by blowing bubbles.
At Maud Abrams Elementary School and Charles W. Sandman Consolidated School in Lower Township, all of the students gathered on a field to raise autism awareness.
Jim Dietterich, a behavior management assistant for the schools, read a message to the students before "Bubbles 4 Autism" commenced. "Bubbles are a sign of hope, because everyone loves bubbles," he said.
Last year, the school district participated in an effort to create a new Guinness World Record for the most people blowing bubbles at the same time, an effort initiated by FACES 4 Autism, a nonprofit which is dedicated to the education and support of children with autism and their families.
About 57,000 people participated. This year, Dietterich said that close to double that number were blowing bubbles.
The "ambassador" for Autism Awareness Day at Lower Township schools, Dietterich said, is Jacyn Pisieczko. Pisieczko, who now attends the Richard M. Teitelman School along with his twin, Eric, used to attend Maud Abrams and Sandman. He attended "Bubbles 4 Autism" with his mother, Lisa Bryant, his sister, Erin Pisieczko, and his twin.
It was Pisieczko who gave the command for the students to begin "blowing bubbles for autism."
The Autism Speaks foundation reports that about one in 68 children are affected by autism.
Teacher Kim Whittington said that her son is on the autism spectrum. She created a PowerPoint presentation about it that is now shared at various schools. The presentation, Whittington said, is in honor of her son, and is used to raise awareness about the disorder.
"I wanted to raise awareness because there are a lot of misconceptions about what autism is," Whittington said. "I tell my students, 'Don't make fun. Make friends.'"
This is the school district's fifth "Bubbles 4 Autism" event. The event is sponsored every year by FACES.
The two other schools in the Lower Township Elementary School district, the Carl T. Mitnick School and the David C. Douglass Veterans Memorial School, also participated in the event.
Autism education at the school district is not limited to "Bubbles 4 Autism," however.
"We've done things all year long to promoted tolerance and encourage kids to be respectful and kind," Sandman principal Barbara Dalrymple said.
That includes awareness-raising activities such as asking students to wear blue and asking them to write an act of kindness on a construction paper puzzle piece - a symbol that is typically associated with autism.
When the students received the "go" from Pisieczko on one of the year's first days of spring, bubbles filled the air, presumably at the same time as many other schools across the state.
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