Autism advocate Dr. Temple Grandin believes that exposure to new experiences is critical to a child’s development.
"Kids have to be exposed to different things in order to develop. A child's not going to find out he (she) likes to play a musical instrument if you never exposed him (her) to it..."
Mindful of Dr. Grandin’s advice and respectful of the board's philosophy of 'Each Belongs,' the Best Buddies group at St. Kateri Tekakwitha Catholic Elementary School meets once a month for a planned morning of activities that center around experiential learning opportunities. These activities are organized and facilitated by the school’s Educational Assistants and Special Education Resource Teacher Shay Standish, and are led and implemented by teacher Christian Callea-Ruiu and her Grade 8 students. Learning opportunities have ranged from baking and decorating to making slime, to the school’s "Hooping it Up" event in March to its latest adventure in T-shirt design and Tie-dying.
In organizing this month's event in conjunction with Autism Awareness Week, the EAs and Best Buddies team opted for an activity that would demonstrate each person’s uniqueness and provide a chance to celebrate how diversity and differences create a "One of a Kind" element.
Educational Assistant Wanda Girard came up with the idea of tie-dying shirts as a great way to have some fun and visually demonstrate how everyone's difference is beautiful.
"I thought it would be a fun idea and unique – just like our students are," said Girard.
Added Principal Brent Condari, "God created every human being in His image and our commitment to inclusion and Each Belongs highlights the individual gifts of all."
Throughout the Autism Awareness Week, St. Kateri students with ASD led the school in morning announcements, sharing the school's motto, "Be kind and make a difference."
Staff and students also wore blue on Friday, April 6th to show their support for Autism Awareness.
Another Best Buddies month activity challenged students and leaders to create their own unique t-shirt designs. Throughout the weekend and the beginning of the week, the students worked to set the die and create their finished product which were then shared with the whole school.
“Now everyone in the school would like to create their own t-shirt as well,” noted Standish. “Inspiration takes many forms and with many opportunities.”