autism awareness

A statue with colorful puzzle pieces comprising a buffalo and calf was installed to celebrate Autism Awareness Month during the month of April.

Colorful puzzle pieces form signs in McAlester — depicting a buffalo and calf, another spelling out the word “love” — to serve as reminders to be kind to our friends with autism.

City of McAlester workers recently installed the signs for Autism Acceptance Month — which the Autism Society celebrates each April to spread awareness, promote acceptance and ignite change.

Engineering Tech Johnny Reich said Street Maintenance Supervisor Tommy Hill came up with the idea of placing a smaller buffalo statue near the intersection of Second Street and Chickasaw Avenue so as not to obstruct the view of drivers and still bring awareness to the cause.

Reich designed the sheet metal sculpture before Street Maintenance Foreman James Roberts and Fleet Maintenance Foreman Shannon “Crash” Barkley helped bolt it in place at the site.

Hill told us the project was personal to him because his grandson is on the autism spectrum.

We thank the city workers, City Manager Pete Stasiak and Assistant City Manager Toni Ervin for their effort to bring awareness.

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, is a lifelong developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control shows it’s the fastest growing developmental disorder in the United States with one in 54 children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and impacting more than 5 million people.

Each person with autism might learn, communicate or solve problems in a different way — but we must all learn to understand the spectrum disorder and promote acceptance of everyone it impacts.

Several organizations offer resources for better understanding autism, as well as help for individuals with autism and their families.

Autism Speaks was founded in 2005 to advocate and support individuals with autism and their families by promoting understanding and acceptance of people with autism.

The Autism Society is a grassroots dedicated to maximizing the quality of life for everyone diagnosed with autism.

Autism Oklahoma is dedicated to a holistic approach to create opportunities for families, children, teens and adults with autism to reach their full potential.

So while the puzzle pieces signs will remain throughout the month of April, we urge everyone to learn more about autism and accept our neighbors impacted by it.

McAlester News-Capital Editorial Board

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