April Autism Awareness Month

Nimrah Khan, Staff Reporter

A student sits alone at a lunch table, among a sea of students who make them feel invisible. Little do the students know that this person cannot control their appearance or their behaviors that drive others away. Hence, we must learn to be inclusive and accepting of people with disabilities such as autism. 

Last April, special needs classes recognized Autism Awareness Month, bringing awareness and acceptance to people with autism. 

Despite COVID-19 restrictions and hybrid learning, special needs classes were able to acknowledge Autism Awareness Month. Education Specialist and special needs teacher Mr. Daniel Fernandez said his classes “reviewed an article regarding Autism Awareness month on one of our online programs and watched videos of different activities happening in our community and around California.” This is extremely important as we should all be inclusive and accepting of all people, including those with disabilities. 

Mr. Fernandez explains how hybrid learning is complicated, namely because special needs students tend to get distracted easily when at home. In response to a future beyond COVID-19 restrictions, he hopes to “pick up where we left off in the classroom” and that “in-person learning is more effective than distance learning for students with special needs because of the real interaction that is provided. Also, students with disabilities learn in many ways, and sometimes focusing on a small screen to learn is a big challenge.” 

Having special needs students return to school would also allow them to interact with other students and participate in Best Buddies and other events like Cougar Relays. Mr. Fernandez adds that “RCHS does an AWESOME job of including our kids in many different programs and activities on campus all year round. We just had a difficult time connecting this year due to restrictions that came about due to the pandemic. So I have to say we are doing a great job with inclusion here at RCHS.”

Though Mr. Fernandez continues, saying, “‘People first’ is a term we use to recognize people as people. When society understands this, our interaction with one another may prevent bouts of discrimination amongst people with disabilities.” Understanding this concept of ‘people first’ would bring about a greater sense of unity within our community.

How can we achieve this not just on our campus, but in our community as a whole? Mr. Fernandez says to reach out and get to know an autistic person because “connecting with another person will not only warm their heart, but you’ll find that interactions like that will also make an impression on your own heart and life down the road.”