St Matthews Catholic Primary Windsor

St Matthew's teacher Ben Ticehurst gives a learning session about autism spectrum disorder to students.

In recognition of World Autism Awareness Day (April 2) and Walk for Autism Week (March 25 - April 1), the staff and students at St Matthew's Primary School in Windsor were lighting it up blue this past week.

"We have a number of children at school with autism and we felt that it was important to do something to build a bit of awareness and understanding around what autism is, as much for the children, but also for the parents and community," said St Matthews teacher, Ben Ticehurst.

The school kicked off the week with a visit from Giant Steps - a school for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) - ambassador and Parramatta Eels player, Brendan Hands, on Monday, March 27.

He shared what his role with Giant Steps is, in spreading awareness of children living with ASD and the importance of being kind to everyone.

Mr Ticehurst said Mr Hands talked about the Giants Steps community and the importance of building an understanding of autism.

"But also the importance of us, being people that show patience and understanding and kindness to all members of our community, because we don't always know what difficulties, or diverse needs, different people have," he said.

The following day, Tuesday, March 28, the students and staff of St Matthew's wore blue in recognition of Autism Awareness Day and to join in on the 'Light it up Blue' campaign, to increase the awareness of ASD.

Mr Ticehurst also visited each class during the morning to teach the kids about ASD, even inviting parents to the first of the day's sessions.

"[The sessions were to] help build an understanding of what autism is," said Mr Ticehurst.

"And then those presentations were modified, depending on the age group of the children, so that they could build their awareness and understanding of autism, and the importance of us as a community, to know how to support these people.

Also the things that are out there to support people with autism as well.

St Matthews Catholic Primary Windsor

St Matthew students dressed in Blue.

Mr Ticehurst said the feedback from parents was positive.

"[The kids were] excited about it, and they were talking about it. So we feel like the initiative worked, as far as building that awareness," he said. "Within our community, people with autism are more prevalent than we are probably aware.

"The message I gave to the children was that having people in a community with diverse needs actually provides us with a more special and unique environment.

"If everyone was the same ... it'd be a little bit boring, and by having that diversity, it provides that sense of beauty that may not be present if everyone was just 'normal'.

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Hawksbury Gazette

Hawksbury Gazette
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