In an effort to raise awareness and understanding, students at Chico High School made a special effort Thursday as they marked National Autism Awareness Month.
With upbeat ’80s pop blaring in the background Chico High School teacher Caitlin McCandless was marshalling her class of autistic students as they handed out small blue ribbons and blue Jolly Ranchers to students making their way through the school courtyard during lunch period.
McCandless said that for much of the day, her students are mainstreamed with others, allowing interactions that demystify autism. McCandless described teachers, administrators and students at the school as very welcoming.
“They embrace the quirkiness and uniqueness that each student brings,” she said.
Talya Kemper is an assistant professor at Chico State and an expert in autism who also coordinates the university’s special education teaching credential program. She said the public has some misconceptions about autism. In contrast to movies and television, not every autistic person is endowed with a special skill or secret expertise. For the most part, she said, they want to be treated like anyone else.
“One of the most common misconceptions is that individuals with autism don’t want to be social,” Kemper said. “They often just don’t know how to be social and they need to be taught the social skills to help them interact with their peers as well as teachers and other adults. They are really individuals just like us. They are all very unique and different.”