The Cheerful Helpers Courier - April 2023
On Sunday April 2nd, the United Nations celebrated World Autism Awareness Day, kicking off this year’s Autism Acceptance Month which will run until Sunday April 30th.
Introduced as Autism Awareness Month, the focus of the month-long campaign has been to foster worldwide support and connect with communities to create a more inclusive world. Through a collaborative effort, Autism Awareness Month works to raise awareness of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) so there can be a “world of difference where all people with autism can reach their full potential” (Autism Speaks, 2023).
In 2020, the Autism Society of America reframed “Autism Awareness Month” to “Autism Acceptance” month. With it’s #CelebrateDifferences campaign, the Autism Society of America highlights the importance of creating connections and places a focus on empowering individuals with ASD and their community. This shift from “Awareness” to “Acceptance” stems from the belief that acceptance can create a world where individuals can be connected to the support they need, when they need it.
The impact of campaigns like Autism Acceptance Month cannot be understated as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released findings that report 1 in 36 U.S. 8-year-old children were diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in 2020. In California, 1 in 22 8-year-old children were diagnosed with ASD in 2020. This trend highlights the importance of early intervention services.
At Cheerful Helpers, this month and every month we recognize that individuals with ASD are unique and we offer support, understanding, and acceptance to our kids and their families. Guided by our mission, we offer a unique and collaborative approach, empowering the entire family to achieve their potential for life-long growth.
1st graders are making salt crystals. Kids are enjoying learning about the chemical reactions and are eager to lean more.
Rebeca's class continues to learn about the earth and recycling. Students have finished designing their plans and are now working to build their toys.
Erin's class Students have been greeting each other at the gate with eye contact and either a verbal or nonverbal hello.Students are also showing an increased ability to stay separate and self-regulate.
Groups meet three times a week. Activities include story telling, zones of regulations and long-term projects.
Connecting with Centers at Cheerful Helpers
Every day, kids at Cheerful Helpers have a half-hour of play between morning academic work and snack. We call this activity Centers, and, uniquely, it is both totally recreational and totally therapeutic in nature.
Centers is structured play that encourages our students to connect with their peers. Each Centers session is called thus because it features 4-5 so-called Centers or play activities. Past and present Centers have included toy barns, Lincoln logs, Magna-Tiles, finger puppets, toy kitchen/restaurant, and toy castles complete with toy dragons.
Centers expands kids’ abilities to express their interest in specific types of play, to be flexible when different activities come and go, and to interact with friends. Centers activities come and go: a given toy will be available to play with for a few weeks or months, and will then be replaced by a new (and exciting!) Center. This challenges our guys to anticipate change and to realize that change is both natural and often fun, disclosing new possibilities.
The social aspect of Centers is also of crucial importance. Centers is one of the parts of the day when students undertake most of their interactions with peers, both prompted and unprompted by teachers. Many of our students face their own personal challenges around connecting with peers. They may also feel more comfortable interacting with familiar adults, while encounters with friends of their own age might feel much more unpredictable. During Centers, our kids have an opportunity to find shared interest. When two or more students are interested in the same activity, wonderful connections often ensue: guys exchange friendly words, engage in imaginative play, create stories together, and learn how to share space and objects. For staff, it is beautiful to see moments of new friendship like this, and it feels meaningful to foster these connections and to look for moments when we can encourage our students to articulate their boundaries, needs, and wishes.
Alumni Spotlight - Arizona!
This month, we feature our fantastic Cheerful Helpers Alumni, Arizona who came to visit Rebeca's class and read one of her favorite books, Rubio and Julienne. Be sure to click on the video to see the wonderful insights both Arizona and Susanna share of how the lessons they learned at Cheerful Helpers still resonate with them today.
Saturday, May 6 - 9:00 am Alumni Support Group Zoom Link
Saturday, May 20 - 3:00 - 4:45 Mind, Body, Spirit an exercise class and fundraiser, join the fun!
Saturday June 10 - 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm A Cheerful Donor Event RSVP
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