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Apr 3, 2020

April is Autism Awareness Month and I want to highlight an important developmental issue related to ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). For those living with ASD language and social development is often rightfully the focus of a therapy plan for any child. Depending on that plan, goals specifically devoted to improving speech intelligibility can be secondary. The other primary focus may be social interaction, behavior, and sensory issues.

In ARIS we pride ourselves on the fact that we are a school that believes in ‘Personalized learning’ and we embrace all manner of children with varied challenges. Autism is one of them. A whole department was set up to give support to children with special needs including children with ASD. We have developed a policy framework that drives Personalized Learning goals. A team of hardworking facilitators, with different professional backgrounds and experiences, have made a difference in the lives of these beautiful kids in ARIS. The cooperation from all the homeroom teachers, subject teachers, right down to the students have been playing different roles in supporting our students, with ASD, this has been an amazing experience. As the world marks this day, The ARIS Personalized Learning Department (PLD) wants to take this opportunity to thank each and everyone in ARIS for your dedication, love and patience.

As we celebrate this special day, it’s important to recognize that these children have so much potential and we need to pay equal attention to them. They have different challenges which include; speech and language disorder, social skills, intellectual disability/ability, behavior concerns, and sensory issues.

Ultimately, there is a reason behind the autism symbol, which signifies a puzzle and the world is battling with finding the best solution for persons living with autism. 

Seeing one child with Autism, will not give you a general statement to describe autism. Two children with the same prognosis won't be the same.  I have seen and personally worked with two children from the same parents who exhibited totally different characteristics and interests. Besides, they do not show any physical trait of any form of disability. They are handsome and pretty amazing human beings one would love to have. 

It is worthy to note that, due to the challenges the children face, they require different therapies and interventions to address their specific needs. In ARIS we are progressively working towards providing interventions for each child. As part of their Personalized Learning Plan, we include all other specific targets to meet their needs. The option of pull-out and in-class supports is used to work with these students to improve their challenges and learning experiences like every other student. 

Due to the COVID-19, ARIS shifted to the Virtual Learning Program model, ARIS PLD students are still given differentiated learning tasks and pull-out sessions through various platforms which include; Seesaw, Google Classroom, Zoom and more. Students are happy to learn from their homes, especially for parents who have been given the opportunity and strategies to work with their children. We are flexible and allow other professionals like speech and language therapists to arrange therapy sessions with our students on campus.   

Take a moment and search Google for prominent individuals who were diagnosed with autism and their contribution to the world. You will be amazed by what they have been able to achieve in the midst of their challenges. They deserve equal treatment and opportunity to bring out the best in them. I got so emotional when Kodi Lee won America's Got Talent competition. If Kodi Lee who is blind and autistic, multiple disabilities, managed to win one of the biggest competitions in America, then I believe that ‘Every child has potential’. LET US ALL LOOK AT AUTISM WITH OUR HEART BECAUSE IF WE ALL DO WITH OUR EYES, WE MAY MISS SOMETHING. 

AS we celebrate this day, we should remember all parents who struggle day and night with autistic children. Apparently, due to their children’s conditions, some of them have lost their livelihood and social lives. Stigmatization, broken marriages and family rejection are so profound. They need our support in several ways so they can also feel they are part of the community.

Look for a parent with a child with autism this month and do something to support them if you can. My heart goes out to these strong and amazing parents in this era of COVID -19 where we have to practice social and physical distance. Whether COVID-19 or not, we need to stretch our hearts and hands and reach out to them.

When you say a prayer today, remember that child with Autism. If you want to touch someone’s life, you have the opportunity to do that this month by remembering the family with an autistic child.

For the ARIS community, we appreciate and accept the greatness in all children and that includes children with Autism. For me, I want to spend the rest of my life helping and supporting families with children with autism. 

Emmanuel Ntow NyarkoARIS- PLD Department ENNY Foundation