Mid-State Behavior and Autism Specialist Emma Reichert spent her day visiting kindergarten through third grade classrooms at Beckemeyer Elementary School on Friday, April 5.
In recognition of April being Autism Awareness Month, Reichert spoke to the young students about autism and accepting people who may seem different. Each lesson featured an interactive storytime tailored to the class level.
Kindergarten classes heard My Friend Has Autism by Amanda Doering Tourville, first and second graders heard Autism Is...by Ymkje Wideman-van der Laan; and older students in third and fifth grades listened to The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin by Julia Finley Mosca.
Reichert incorporated teachable moments and questions throughout the story periods, taking care to explain autistic traits such as lack of eye contact, hyperfocus and rigidity, and making them relatable to the students. She also took time to explain varying sensory issues, asking the children about their own personal preferences and emphasizing that each person has different likes and dislikes, and ways that these preferences may be taken into account.
Reichart ended the lessons by comparing autism to a puzzle and having each of the children color their own unique puzzle piece worksheets.
"Autism is like a puzzle. Just like each of us are different, each autistic person is an individual. It is our job as friends to figure out how we can interact with others and encourage them to readily engage with us," said Reichert. "The most important thing is to be kind to everyone that we meet. Even if someone seems different we can always find something in common to build a friendship."