To kick off Autism Awareness Month this April, we decorated our CIP Brevard offices as part of Autism Speaks' "Light It Up Blue" campaign… and volunteered on April 1st at the annual Brevard PALS Family Festival. Brevard PALS is a local organization that is near and dear to our hearts because they support individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders as well as their families. Our students throw a monthly game night for younger children and teens on the spectrum so they have the opportunity to develop stronger social and perspective-taking skills while having a blast with their friends and our CIP students.
Rebecca G., one of our upper class students who is attending Florida Institute of Technology, said:
“I grew up in a time when Autism started to become diagnosed more frequently. Because I have Asperger’s, I know how challenging it can be for individuals on the spectrum. And I know how important it is for them to have a good foundation of support. I know it’s especially important for children to get support and accommodations early on… and I like being a part of that! That is why I volunteer every year during Autism Awareness month (as well as throughout the year). During April this year, I volunteered at the Brevard PALS Family Festival in the Legos booth because I’ve always loved Legos and it’s a great hands-on opportunity for children on the spectrum to be creative.”
In addition to helping out with Lego building, our students helped with arts & crafts, soccer, the bounce houses, and a petting zoo. Many students and staff enjoyed dancing the Macarena along with children, families, and the Chick-fil-A mascot… but the highlight was the water balloon fight. Carrie Piscia, Brevard Center therapist, brought her son Jordan and mother Mary to the event. She said, “I loved that my family was able to come out to support and also help grow the autism community.” Academic Coordinator Ryan Therriault said she was “so impressed with how confident a new student became when interacting with children in the petting zoo. He read their body language to see if they would be comfortable holding an animal and adapted his approach to each child’s comfort level.”
On April 21st, a few students (Alix, Diego, Luke, and Mike) wrapped up our Autism Awareness month efforts by volunteering at another Brevard PALS event, the 6th Annual Uncorked wine
fundraiser. They greeted and directed guests as they parked, arrived, and enjoyed the festivities (wine tasting and dinner, dancing, and silent auction). For more information about Brevard PALS, go to http://www.brevardautism.com/PALS/.