Fifth graders at Curtsinger Elementary have organized themselves in support of the Structured Learning Class (SLC) by forming a club called Anchored for Autism.
The SLC is an instructional setting that offers specially designed instruction for children with autism and/or other communication disorders who require support to build functional language and communication skills.
Under the guidance of Sara Parish, a paraprofessional in the SLC classroom, students meet monthly to discuss ideas on how to support their friends with special needs and promote autism awareness.
“We really help anyone with a learning difference who needs a bit of help,” said Kate Long, one of the founding student members. “They are normal kids who want the same things as us.”
At the end of the day, when most fifth graders are at recess, you will find the Anchored for Autism students engaged with peer buddies in the SLC classroom. Club members also spend the last moments of the day helping SLC students get ready to go home.
The Anchored for Autism students also support their friends with special needs during art, music, physical education and lunch, ensuring that everyone is engaged and included in every facet of the day.
The students share their success stories in rapid-fire excitement talking over each other and celebrate how they recently taught a student how to catch a ball.
Parish explained that the child who learned to catch a ball had been working on this skill daily since last school year in adapted physical education.
“Same-age peer engagement is exactly what the SLC students need,” said Parish. “These kids don’t even know the huge impact they are making.”
“We feel like a lot more people are acknowledging these students now,” added Georgia Mayfield, an Anchored for Autism member. “There are so many people who want to join us. I think a lot more people understand and want to get involved a little more helping others.”
Over the holidays, students got together on their own time to make ornaments in promotion of autism awareness and raise money for the Organization for Autism Research (OAR).
“We learned in Mrs. Blessing’s reading class about donating money to organizations that don’t pocket the money,” said Allie Waltz, a founding member. “We chose OAR based on their rating with Charity Navigator.”
Anchored for Autism proudly donated over $300 to OAR, but their interest in helping others continues.
Students at all grade levels are now going out of their way to accept students with special needs. With this in mind, Anchored for Autism students have created an Anchored in Kindness Award to be presented to two students a month at Curtsinger who show kindness to others.
“This is an amazing group of kids,” Parish said. “Everything that comes out of the club is 100 percent entirely their will power.”
The District is proud to have numerous campuses that offer unique versions of Best Buddies, an international organization that fosters one-to-one partnerships between students with and without disabilities. Through inclusive school environments across the District, all students benefit from opportunities to interact with all types of learners.