LUCI WELDON/The Warren Record

Mariam Boyd Exceptional Children teachers, staff members and students show that any day of the year is the right time to raise awareness about autism. Pictured, from the left, are, front row: students Joshua Gordon, Sha’nelle Stevenson, Thomas Harmon, Sydney Ellis, Jayla Hargrove and Randy Miller; back row: volunteer Delisha Milon, teacher assistant Ambrianna Winston, teacher Kirby Alston, custodian Mylicy Powell and teacher assistant Carol Evans.

Exceptional Children teachers and students at Mariam Boyd Elementary School have been busy over the past few weeks with activities to increase awareness about autism.

The Autism Society of America defines autism spectrum disorder as a complex developmental disability with signs that typically appear during childhood and affect a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. April is recognized nationally as Autism Awareness Month.

Carol Evans, Mariam Boyd Exceptional Children teacher assistant, said that, too often, autistic children are left out of activities that other boys and girls their age may take for granted.

“These are the children people often don’t invite to parties,” she said.

Evans interacts with people with autism outside the classroom on a regular basis as several of her family members live with the disorder. She and Mariam Boyd’s other Exceptional Children educators wanted to do something special for their young students to show them that the teachers care strongly about them.

Three years ago, the educators established a new tradition with arts and crafts activities in honor of Autism Awareness Month. Special events also included movies and refreshments.

The students also began helping to paint puzzle pieces for Autism Awareness Puzzle Ribbons, which has become a recognized symbol of people with autism throughout the world. The puzzle pattern and ribbon represent the mystery and complexity of autism, and the complexity of the people and families living with the disorder while maintaining hope through research and increased awareness.

The Mariam Boyd teachers and students will continue to observe Autism Awareness Month each year, but the educators want to expand their efforts to include people outside the school.

“We are looking for community sponsors to do more for (the children) in a setting that all walks of life can enjoy,” Evans said.

The Mariam Boyd teachers hope that a countywide event could be developed that would not only recognize National Autism Awareness Month, but also provide opportunities for people with autism to participate.

If such an event could be planned, the only smiles that would be bigger than the children having fun would be those on the faces of Evans and her fellow educators.