The Westview School celebrates Autism Awareness Month

As we wrap up Autism Awareness Month, we focus on a local school that believes early intervention is the key to reaching children with autism spectrum disorder.

They're busting out pom-poms at The Westview School for light-hearted fun. Students and teachers at The Westview School in Houston throw a pep rally during Spirit Week. They're taking time to not only recognize, but celebrate Autism Awareness Month. 

Mimi Le is a Student and Staff Support Specialist at Westview and says it's important for the students to have fun.

"Our kids work so hard to get through their day and learn and academics aren't always the funnest things to get through, and so times like this, they're excited to be here and we're excited to share that with them," Mimi says. 

The program at Westview is offered to high-functioning students with autism. Kelly Simmons works with some of the youngest students as an early childhood development teacher.  Her personal experience with autism benefits her at work, as her son, Pierce, is on the spectrum.  Many other teachers also have a child with autism, which helps them all better understand one other.

"The compassion, the patience, and understanding they (students) aren't having typical behaviors and that their minds just work differently," she explains.

We met up with Isobel Adams, the president of her eighth grade class, and she sure loves her school.  She's enjoying a playground that was created to stimulate their young minds.  Her favorite thing about the school? "My teachers! They're cool and sweet and fun to hang around with," she exclaims and says she has made a lot of friends here.  

Sarah Chauvin is the People of Westview (POW) President. Her son has gone to Westview the past nine years.  She says it has benefitted her entire family.

"Autism can be somewhat isolating, but I think having a place for parents to go where everyone is walking the same journey, where parents of small three year olds can look up to these middle school parents who have walked exactly where they have walked and are on the path.  It's so great to see that, model that behavior and be able to see and share those experiences," says Sarah.

Students are taught how to communicate through art, as many children with autism are visual thinkers.  Art helps them communicate with their peers, as they can see how others think through their artistic creations. Students also learn to excel in a motor lab.  Instruction is focused on developing their motor skills, and they learn important things like how to take turns.  Teamwork is even accomplished through climbing, swinging, and jumping.  All of that is definitely something to cheer about.

Autism is the fastest growing developmental disability and has shot up 120 percent in the past 20 years. Now, 1 in 59 children is diagnosed with autism. Boys are more likely to be diagnosed with it. 

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