Gillett celebrates autism awareness

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The Gillett School District marked April as Worldwide Autism Awareness Month.

Wendy Vorpahl, parent representative for the district’s autism grant team, shared her perspective as a mother of four sons, two of whom have a diagnosis of classic autism.

“When my son Mark was diagnosed with autism in 2002, the statistics were one in 166,” she said. “When Aaron was diagnosed in 2005, it was one in 150. Today, that statistic is for one in 68 births, a child will be diagnosed with autism. One in every 44 boys will be diagnosed with autism.”

In an effort to inform students and staff about autism, schoolwide activities were held in April. Each grade level created a puzzle piece that is signed by the staff and students and includes a fact about autism. The autism grant team invites people to walk along the fence by the football field to see the puzzle pieces on display.

The team welcomed Tayler Wilson, a Gillett graduate, who spoke to the students and staff about what it’s like to grow up with autism. She credited her mom, Brenda Hansen, as well as many Gillett teachers and staff for their support and guidance throughout her academic career at Gillett. She graduated from Fox Valley Technical College and enjoys her career as a medical office assistant.

High school students through the positive peer groups held a fundraiser in April and donated all proceeds to a local charity that helps families dealing with autism.

In April, Gillett schools promoted the importance of diversity to raise awareness and build an understanding of others’ differences.

The autism grant team’s goal is to continue to promote awareness through events and to encourage students and staff to understand that for some people with autism, small steps toward independence are major accomplishments and need to be celebrated.