Nashville Wraps is honored to partner with two organizations helping children who have been diagnosed with ASD (autism spectrum disorder) – Rise Academy and Autism Ability Advocates. Children in these organizations use our products to make Christmas gifts for fundraising to help increase public awareness of autism. The children range in the autism spectrum of being non-verbal with limited physical abilities, to very high-functioning autism like Asperger’s Syndrome. Both organizations focus on what each child can do, not on what they can’t. The latest study says ASD affects 1 in 45 children, and boys are diagnosed with it about 5 times more often than girls.
Rise Academy – Helping Autistic Children Through Inclusion
Rise Academy, part of the Pell City, Alabama School System, supports students with autism and like disabilities with challenging functional curriculum. Rise Academy classrooms are located in individual school buildings, providing continual opportunities for the students to participate with typical peers in their age group.
Teacher Meredith Snow says, “Allowing our special learners to participate in classes, activities and school functions with their peers has had a tremendous impact. Students in my class are included in everything at our school like club meetings, dances and choir. Our school administration really fosters an inclusive environment. Because of this, our students have developed social skills, increased self-esteem and lasting friendships with peers. We then see students progress to attending more general education classes with appropriate support as they become more confident learners.”
Meredith reached out to us for the school’s Panther Pals – a student-led business designed to teach functional life skills. Her school’s principal designated a classroom for the program, which allowed them to transform it into a functioning work space. They have various stations with crafting machines and projects for the students to complete. Paraprofessionals assist students in finding jobs that match each student’s own special skills and unique abilities. After the items are crafted, they are sold in the school and throughout the community. All proceeds go back into the classroom to purchase supplies and fund field trips.
She explains, “The fund-raising aspect is a great advantage, but not our purpose. The purpose is to provide our students with a simulated work environment to teach essential life skills. It’s also a great setting to invite peers to work alongside us. We also have community volunteers who come in to teach skills such as sewing. We even love to”upcycle” many items such as bottle caps, game pieces and T-shirts by taking items that have been donated and finding a way to use them.
“This year Nashville Wraps was so kind to donate crinkle shred for our Christmas ornaments! It was so nice to find a business and people like Patti Plumer who are interested in investing in our children. Students filled plastic ornaments and decorated them with ribbon and embellishments. This was a very simple and quick project for our students and they were able to express their creativity. Each ornament is unique and shows skill, creativity, and ability. These ornaments will be sold this month in our Santa Shop.”
Meredith’s charge to us all, “I think parents would like for people to see their child first and their disability second. If we could shift our focus from disability to ability, this would help students and families feel supported and included. Every single person has strengths and needs.”
Autism Ability Advocates – Focusing on the Capabilities of Autistic Children
Autism Ability Advocates is a non-profit organization located in Collierville, TN. Its mission is to promote the independence, health, and happiness of individuals with autism spectrum disorder. In 2004, founder Denice Stout saw a need to help parents and professionals who had no access to up-to-date information on effective autism interventions. Denice’s son Dustin is pictured here and loves to create products that promote “Ability Awareness”.
She explains, “It was obvious that the kids challenged with autism were being isolated in school and community settings because there were no proper services or supports for inclusion. At the time, I was an inclusive teacher, support parent, and a parent of a son diagnosed with moderate to severe ASD. I became passionate about enhancing the quality of life of individuals with ASD. I made it my mission to promote the independence, health, and happiness of individuals with autism spectrum disorder.”
Autism Ability Advocates has started many programs including support groups, active living programs, art programs, fee advocacy, workshops, self-directed life planning services, transition panning, inclusive programming and promoting “Ability Art Day”.
As part of the program’s art days, the children have used supplies from Nashville Wraps like cello bags, organza bags and ribbon to create key chains, ribbon book marks, bath salt favor bags, necklaces, organic flax seed eye pillows and no-crease hair ties.
We believe that through compassion, patience and love, children with autism spectrum and related disorders are capable of much. We are the ones who can learn from them. Please watch the very sweet video below created by a young man who wanted the world to see what it’s
like to have an older brother with autism. You may be surprised by his answer at the end.
If you are interested in learning more about these great organizations, email Meredith Snow or Denise Stout or through Facebook: Panther Pals and Autism Ability Advocates. You can also find out more about autism through Autism Speaks.