NAES Celebrates Autism Awareness Month

Autism Awareness

The eighth annual World Autism Awareness Day was April 2, 2016. Every year, autism organizations around the world celebrate the day with unique fundraising and awareness-raising events.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disability  that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. There is often nothing about how people with autism look that sets them apart from other people, but people with autism may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most other people. The learning, thinking, and problem-solving abilities of people with autism can range from gifted to severely challenged. Some people with autism need a lot of help in their daily lives; others need less.

People with autism often have problems with social, emotional, and communication skills. They might repeat certain behaviors and might not want change in their daily activities. Many people with autism also have different ways of learning, paying attention, or reacting to things. Signs of autism begin during early childhood and typically last throughout a person’s life.  “Autism awareness is a key factor in helping our students become the best they can be at any level of performance. Over the years of my service to students with autism, they never cease to surprise me at their ability to learn and grow when given the opportunity and taught in a way that makes sense to them. I feel like the best part of autism awareness is giving parents, teachers, and children hope that achievement and success are obtainable and not just an unreachable dream,” says Amy Chapman, Behavior Specialist at New Albany Elementary School.

Diagnosing autism spectrum disorder can be difficult since there is no medical test, like a blood test, to diagnose the disorders. Doctors look at the child’s behavior and development to make a diagnosis. Autism can sometimes be detected at 18 months or younger. By age 2, a diagnosis by an experienced professional can be considered very reliable.  However, many children do not receive a final diagnosis until much older. This delay means that children with autism might not get the early help they need. According to Dawn Stroupe, a 5th grade teacher at NAES who has an autistic child, “Obtaining a diagnosis of autism can be extremely difficult. However, as a parent, if you feel that something is different about your child, please continue to ask questions and search until you get answers. Early intervention is so important in the treatment of autism. Having a child with autism is not the end of the world; it is merely the beginning of a new amazing world.”

About 1 in 68 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder according to estimates from CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network. Autism is reported to occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. Autism is about 4.5 times more common among boys (1 in 42) than among girls (1 in 189).

Spreading autism awareness in schools is a great way to celebrate April and promote inclusion and acceptance in the classroom and beyond. New Albany Elementary teachers and staff are promoting autism awareness throughout the month of April by wearing blue on Fridays. “This year we even have special puzzle piece blue shirts to celebrate our wonderful students and families who know firsthand the struggles that autism brings. The puzzle piece signifies the complexity of autism and stands for… ‘Until all the pieces fit together and we understand everything about autism.’ Our school is dedicated to making a difference in the lives of our students and their families,” added Tammie Reeder, Health Services Coordinator, New Albany Schools.


Getting More Students to Begin their Day with Breakfast

Breakfast Week 2

“Wake Up to School Breakfast” Encourages New Albany Elementary School Families to Choose Breakfast at School

Busy weekday mornings make it a challenge for families to find time for a healthy breakfast. However, US Department of Agriculture data show that more students are starting their day with a nutritious breakfast in their school cafeterias. To encourage more families to take advantage of the healthy choices available with school breakfast, New Albany Elementary School recognized National School Breakfast Week during March 7-11, 2016.

School Breakfast Week 3The National School Breakfast Week (NSBW) campaign theme, “Wake Up to School Breakfast”, reminded the entire school community that school breakfast provides a healthy, energizing start to the day for students. Students were encouraged to “Wake Up” their minds and bodies during March 7-11 with special menus, decorations, cafeteria events, and more.

Fun-named menu items such as Kickin’ Chicken & Bisucits, Sunrise Sausage & Biscuits, Dawn of Pop Tarts, Stretchin’ with Cereal, and Morning Muffins were served during the week. On Thursday, March 10, school administrators assisted cafeteria workers with serving breakfast to students. On Friday, March 11, student athletes from New Albany High School ate breakfast with NAES students.

Breakfast Week 1“A healthy breakfast at the start of the day is one way to ensure students are getting the best education they can,” said Tammie Reeder, Health Services Coordinator for New Albany Schools. “National School Breakfast Week helps us educate parents and students about all the healthy and appealing choices we offer”. School nutrition professionals in the New Albany School District prepare breakfast and lunches every day that meet federal nutrition standards – limiting fat, calories and sodium – and encourage students to choose from the fruits, vegetables and whole grains offered with school meals.

School Breakfast Week 4

National School Breakfast Week was launched in 1989 to raise awareness of the availability of the School Breakfast Program to all children and to promote the links between eating a good breakfast, academic achievement and healthy lifestyles. The “Wake Up to School Breakfast” campaign is made possible by the nonprofit School Nutrition Association and Kellogg’s Specialty Channels.


New Stage Theatre Presents Arts-In-Education Programs

New Albany Androcles

On February 18 & 19, New Stage Theatre presented in-school performances of Androcles and the Lion and Mississippi Talking: Scenes from Mississippi Writers at New Albany Elementary School and New Albany High School, as part of the New Stage Theatre Arts-in-Education statewide touring program. Androcles and the Lion was presented on February 18 at 10:15 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. at New Albany Elementary School for 1,128 Pre-K to 5th grade students; and Mississippi Talking was presented on February 19 at 8:15 a.m. for 498 6th through 8th grade students and at 10:00 a.m. for 545 9th through 12th grade students.

Androcles and the Lion, adapted by Kathryn Walat from Aesop’s fable, features an unlikely trio of friends of a singing mouse, an escaped slave, and a hungry lion whose bond is put to the test in this enchanting and heartwarming 50-minute play. Androcles, an escaped slave from the city, makes his way into the jungle where he finds the Lion with a thorn in his paw. Risking capture, Androcles decides to help the Lion and the two become fast friends. But when the evil Emperor imprisons the two companions, it’s the tiny Mouse who reminds them all that friendships aren’t easily broken.

New Albany MS TalkMississippi Talking: Scenes from Mississippi Writers is an entertaining and moving show, which illuminates the richness of the state’s culture in scenes gathered from the works of Mississippi’s finest writers. Audiences will be fascinated by this 55-minutes theatrical view of Mississippi that joins comic and dramatic scenes selected from poetry, drama, short stories, and novels by Eudora Welty, Tennessee Williams, Richard Wright and more.

The shows were directed by Chris Roebuck, Education Director at New Stage, and Francine Reynolds, Artistic Director at New Stage. They were performed by New Stage’s Professional Acting Company members Chris Ambrose, Matthew Denton, Allison Heinz, and Briana Thomas.

The performance was followed by an open discussion between the acting company and the students.  The discussion explored the literature, the themes of the play, and the experience of acting.

New Stage Theatre is a professional not-for-profit theatre.  New Stage Theatre’s Arts-in-Education tours are supported, in part, by Entergy, the Chisholm Foundation, and the Mississippi Arts Commission.

Alphabet Blog Hop

Alphabet Exchange 2Christy Littlejohn & Kelsey Epting’s 1st grade class at New Albany Elementary School has participated in an Alphabet Blog Hop this semester.

First grade and kindergarten from across the country participated in this activity. Some classes chose send photos of classmates and their school buildings. Each class sent a letter describing their community.

Alphabet Exchange 1Twenty-six classes from around the country were assigned a letter. Each kindergarten and first grade class made a craft for the assigned letter and wrote a note telling about their towns, schools, and states.

Littlejohn’s first grade students received letters from the following states; Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Washington.

First grade students in Littlejohn’s class learned many interesting facts from the blog exchange including:

  • Letter Q-Quails can fly up to 40 miles an hour.
  • Many classes live close to mountains and those students enjoy hiking.
  • A school in Texas found an 11 foot alligator on their campus after a flood.
  • One of the schools is located in the town where the Indy 500 takes place.
  • The school in Illinois has a garden for the students to grow food.
  • A kindergarten class is located on the McGuire Air Force Base. All of those students have parents in the Air Force, Army, or Navy.

Teachers reported that the students had a wonderful learning experience and really enjoyed receiving mail.

New Albany School District Receives Continued Funding Through 21st Century Community Learning Centers Grant

NAES Site Coordinator Laura Reedy & Enrichment Instructor Dawn Stroupe  conduct science experiments for 21st CCLC participants during a recent afterschool session.
NAES Site Coordinator Laura Reedy & Enrichment Instructor Dawn Stroupe conduct science experiments for 21st CCLC participants during a recent afterschool session.

The New Albany School District has been awarded continued funding through the Title IV, Part B, 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC) grant from the Mississippi Department of Education.  This is a five-year grant that will support expanded before-school and after-school activities, parent engagement opportunities, and summer enrichment programming at New Albany Elementary School, New Albany Middle School, and New Albany High School. This is the third year the school district has provided programming through the 21st CCLC grant.

Elizabeth Day helps a group of students prepare props for Readers' Theater during a before school session.
Elizabeth Day helps a group of students prepare props for Readers’ Theater during a before school session.

The school’s 21st CCLC program offers academic, artistic, and cultural enrichment opportunities to students when school is not in session. The purpose of the program is to provide opportunities for academic enrichment and tutorial services, as well as offer students an array of programs such as youth development, art/music programs, recreation, technology education, and character education.

Lights on Afterschool Week was held during the week of October 19 in an effort to bring awareness about after-school programs and the importance of programming through the 21st CCLC grant program.   The New Albany School District participated in the week’s activities by planning special enrichment activities for the program’s participants.

A group of elementary students work on a bat craft during before school enrichment time.  These students have been studying bat facts during the month of October.
A group of elementary students work on a bat craft during before school enrichment time. These students have been studying bat facts during the month of October.
A group of NAMS students participate in an afterschool book club.
A group of NAMS students participate in an afterschool book club.