A crowd of students, teachers and parents gathered in Cape May County Special Service School District's parking lot April 22, cheering and celebrating as countless tiny bubbles of hope surrounded them.
The school district was participating in the 10th annual Bubbles 4 Autism event, a worldwide celebration of autism awareness through bubble blowing. Bubbles 4 Autism was started a decade ago by the FACES 4 Autism founder and Ventnor mom Isabelle Mosca, whose teenage son, Kyle, has autism.
"I was just a mom who wanted someone to play with her kid," said Mosca, reflecting on her simple idea that has turned into a worldwide annual event. "It's just so touching because it resonated with so many other parents, so many other teachers, and now it's just become a national day in so many different places."
Other Cape May County school districts participating in the 10th annual bubbles day were Upper Township, Lower Township, Ocean City, Stone Harbor and some individual classes from the Wildwood and Middle Township school districts.
They were joined by groups from as far away as Australia, Indonesia and Ireland, Mosca said, and many schools in Atlantic County, where the Moscas are from.
Mosca came up with the idea when Kyle was in preschool as a way to help his classmates understand him and build relationships. At the time, Kyle spoke only a handful of words.
"I said to his class, 'OK, what do you like to do?' and they'd say, 'We like to go on the swings,' and I'd said, 'Well, Kyle likes to go on the swings, too,' and we looked at all the things they had in common and bubbles was one of them," Mosca said. "So we realized they had a lot more things in common then they had that were different."
Later that day the entire preschool class went out onto the playground and blew bubbles together, unknowingly at the time, kicking off the inaugural Bubbles 4 Autism event, which is sponsored by FACES 4 Autism, a nonprofit dedicated to education and support of children with Autism and their families.
Charles W. Sandman Consolidated School and Maud Abrams School, both in the Lower Township School District, added an educational element to their Bubbles 4 Autism event this year as Sandman teacher Kim Whittington created an autism awareness Power Point presentation, which was shown to both schools' students and staff as a way to teach them why they are blowing the bubbles. Her son, Braden, has autism.
"We wanted to be more proactive with educating the staff and the students," Whittington said.
After seeing the presentation, the schools' students created bubble and puzzle piece artwork inspired by the lesson, which now hang in the hallways.
Each colorful bubble or puzzle piece has a message of hope in the center, some of which include, "Be a buddy, not a bully," "People with autism might have a hard time talking with other people," and, "I hope someday we figure out the puzzle of autism."
Sandman seventh-grader Joelle Klein, who has autism, wrote a poem which she recited during the bubbles event, titled, "What it's Like to Have Autism." In it Joelle wrote, "Autism is like a bubble because we sometimes cause trouble," and, "Autism can talk, but we may have trouble trying to talk." A copy of Klein's poem also hangs in Sandman's hall, surrounded by the bubbles and puzzle pieces.
"I thought it really would be nice to write a poem for the event because I have autism," she said.
"It was very brave of you," added Whittington. "You've come a long way, and it's a beautiful poem."
Lisa Bryant, the parent of Sandman sixth-grader Jacyn Pisieczko, who also has autism, said the beauty of the Bubbles 4 Autism event is that it teaches the students acceptance at a young age, which they will carry with them throughout life.
"These are the children that are one day going to be the adults in this community," Bryant said. "So for (Jacyn) to grow with them and for them to grow to learn to understand autism, it's just beautiful."
Contact Elisa Lala: