CCHS raises awareness for autism

Published 10:39 am Monday, April 24, 2023

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By JOYANNA LOVE | Managing Editor

Chilton County High School students in DECA and FFA  recently led efforts to raise awareness of Autism in the school and neighboring schools.

Student professional business organization DECA president Isaiah Owens said the students want to bring awareness to the fact that autism diagnoses are increasing and that there is a spectrum of mild cases to those that have difficulty talking or communicating at all.

The awareness week kicked off on April 17 with students being encouraged to wear the autism awareness color of blue.

Tymarion Barbour, DECA vice president of finance, said it was an important project for the group because Baker’s daughter has autism.

“We noticed that our county doesn’t really speak much about it or do much fundraising about autism in our county, so we want to … start a landmark for autism (awareness) in Chilton County,” Barbour said.

Amy Akers of DECA also has a personal connection to the project because her younger brother is on the autism spectrum. She said this impacts his communications skills, and it makes him particular about what he wants to eat and wants to do.

“I think having a larger special needs class in our school makes it more important for us because we are very close friends with the students in those classes,” Akers said. “I think it helps them to feel more included. I think inclusivity is very important for all children.”

Shavonne Baker, advisor for DECA, said she had been involved in similar awareness weeks at  other schools in the past and wanted to host one at CCHS.

She said the group reached out to FFA advisor Marlon Harton about partnering for the awareness week. FFA president Joshua Simms said it was something that he wanted the group to be a part of.

He said it was something new for FFA, and a way to “help other programs thrive as well.”

“We think that this partnership will really help bring our two organizations together,” Simms said.

Funds were also raised to donate to Autism Speaks, an autism awareness focused organization.

On April 18, students could pay $1 to be allowed to wear a hat at school. Simms said this was meaningful because hats can be used as a comforting sensory tool for those on the autism spectrum. On April 19, those students who purchased an autism awareness bracelet walked around the other Clanton schools as an awareness parade.

“I know CCHS students are going to raise a lot of money because anytime we do fundraisers, charitable fundraisers on anything like that, our school definitely comes through every time,” Barbour said.

Students have promoted the week and the fundraising opportunities through posters, schoolwide announcements, emails and social media posts.

Awareness pins and lanyards are also being sold as a part of the project.