Annual Differences Day Teaches GUFS Students About Autism

On Friday, April 11, the Garrison School celebrated the second annual “Differences Day,” where kindergarten through eighth graders participated in activities developed to educate students about learning differences. Last year, students learned about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. April is Autism Awareness Month and this year the student body focused on Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Garrison Middle School students Alii Sharpley, left, and Alex Mancuso, right, welcome guest speaker Durant Crow, center, a student at James I. O'Neill High School.

Garrison Middle School students Alii Sharpley, left, and Alex Mancuso, right, welcome guest speaker Durant Crow, center, a student at James I. O’Neill High School.

“The goal behind Differences Day is to create a genuine understanding, tolerance, empathy and acceptance of those who learn in a different way,” explained guidance counselor Michael Williams. “One of the ways we teach learning differences at the Garrison School is to have our older students research the topics first and then teach our younger students what they have learned.”

Students researched Autism Spectrum Disorder and created PowerPoint presentations for students in fifth through eighth grades. Students welcomed one of their teachers, Susan MacEnroe, who spoke about her experience of raising a stepson with autism. They had the fortune of hearing from another guest speaker, Durant Crow, who is a freshman at James I. O’Neill High School and was diagnosed as being on the spectrum last year. Middle school students also visited elementary classrooms to read children’s books on autism to younger students.

“As we observed the guest speakers present their personal experiences with autism, it was clear by the reaction of our students that their message of acceptance and understanding of other’s differences was powerful and made a huge impact,” shared Garrison School Principal Stephanie Impellittiere. “One student said, ‘Thank you for coming to speak to us, you are an inspiration’ and that is a perfect example of why these programs are so important.”

Photo courtesy of Garrison School

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