WEST ORANGE, NJ — The annual Autism Awareness Carnival held at Mt. Pleasant Elementary School on May 12 celebrated district elementary, middle and high school autistic students with a ceremony, bubble-blowing, a carnival and a barbecue.
The event began with comments by Mt. Pleasant Principal Julie DiGiacomo, Kelly Principal Joanne Pollara, Superintendent of Schools Jeff Rutzky and special services director Connie Salimbeno.
“We work with our students every day and love them,” Rutzky said, according to a press release, “and we have a partnership with our students, our parents, our teachers, our paraprofessionals and our administrators.”
Mt. Pleasant and Kelly students held up signs that featured descriptive words beyond autism. Middle and high school students walked around the auditorium as “Imagine,” by John Lennon, played. “Imagine” was the theme of the event as teachers and paraprofessionals wore specially designed T-shirts.
“We have often heard it said that it takes a village to raise a child,” Pollara said at the event. “Well, have you ever wondered what it takes to raise the awareness of that village? I believe it takes a child — perhaps a child with autism. The autism awareness shirts that we wore in honor of Autism Awareness Month remind us that the way we look at our children — their gifts and the joy that they bring to our world — is how they perceive themselves. If we only focus on limitations, they will mirror that perception. “
After DiGiacomo thanked teacher Kristen Garces for organizing the event, the group moved outside to blow bubbles in front of the school. Parents, teachers, and students then headed to the back of Mt. Pleasant, where students were excited to see several inflatables, a train, a popcorn machine and a barbecue catered by Sodexo as the celebration continued.