Autism Awareness Month

Autism Awareness Month

April is Autism Awareness month. In observance of all that this month entails, the special education department, the Unified Sports program, and the Bulldogs Understanding Differences in Students (BUDS) Club have been active in spreading awareness and inclusivity for students with autism. 

For the Unified Sports program, this month serves as a reminder to accept and include those with autism. Both Unified Sports athletes and partner athletes, a student athlete participating in Unified Sports without an intellectual disability, have been working tirelessly this season to show the best of Stone Bridge.

I’ve seen how [Special Olympics athletes and partner athletes] have grown as individuals over the past four years,” Special Olympics partner athlete Kyra Campbell said. “That’s where a lot of my engagement is, being paired with a student with autism and myself, and we worked together to pursue ideas of inclusion. That’s what the Special [Olympics] is all about.” 

Special Olympics is dedicated to promoting social inclusion to sports training and competition. Unified Sports combines people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team. The program was inspired from a simple goal–training together and playing together is a quick path to friendship and understanding.

[Special Olympics] is an initiative to get students with intellectual disabilities involved in sports,” Campbell said. “Athletes have to have an intellectual disability–and it’s run through the government, which gives funding to Special Olympics to run programs at Unified Champion schools.” 

Stone Bridge High School became a Unified Champion school in 2020. This title was bestowed upon by Special Olympics Virginia. The Unified Team, composed of 20 athletes and partner-athletes, has a meet on Wednesday, Apr. 27 at Broad Run High School. Also, Special Olympics regionals are on Saturday at Park View High School. 

Practices have been fun for everyone involved, which was affirmed happily by special olympics athlete Claire Tanis.

Through Unified Sports, Special Olympics athletes and partner athletes have made connections with students outside of their usual classes. Many of our Special Olympics athletes had never participated on a sports team prior to participating in Unified Sports.”

— Kathryn Zielinski

“I enjoy running. It brings people together,” said Tanis. “We get to meet other kids from different schools.” 

“Through Unified Sports, Special Olympics athletes and partner athletes have made connections with students outside of their usual classes. Many of our Special Olympics athletes had never participated on a sports team prior to participating in Unified Sports,” said special educator and Unified Sports coach, Ms. Zielinski. 

In the spirit of the month, an inclusive student group is selling Autism Acceptance stickers around Stone Bridge. These decals will be on sale outside the cafeteria during all lunch shifts from Apr. 25 through Apr. 29. Stickers will also be sold in the lobby on Friday from 8:30 AM – 9:00 AM. Stickers cost $1. 

Together, Stone Bridge students are collectively recognizing Autism and are actively participating in Autism acceptance. The Unified Sports team is looking for more partner-athletes for the 2022-2023 school year. If you are interested or have any questions about how you can get involved with this awesome program, see Ms. Zielinski in room L411 for more details.