TOTOWA, NJ - Students from Memorial School in Totowa took part in a special activity recently, with the goal of helping others with challenges.

The district-wide event had students and staff members blowing "Bubbles for Autism" on April 7. Held in observance of World Autism Awareness Day on April 2, the aim was to have students enjoy an activity while raising awareness for autism, a developmental brain disorder that can affect a person's ability to communicate and interact with others.

According to Patricia Capitelli, superintendent, students and staff took part in a fun activity which held a special message of hope.

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"April is National Autism Awareness month," explained Capitelli. "Students in all grades will participate in a variety of activities throughout the month to promote awareness, acceptance and appreciation. On Friday, students in pre-K through fourth grade blew bubbles for autism."

Students and staff members blew glycerin bubbles while they gathered onto the back lots of both Washington Park School and Memorial School. A sea of bubbles floated in the air to the delight of all those who participated.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, autism now affects one in 68 children nationwide. Approximately 2 percent of children from birth to 21 years of age have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Boys are four times more likely to have autism than girls.

Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are neurodevelopmental disorders that are characterized by impairments in social interaction, communication, and behavior, according to the Autism New Jersey website. Individuals with ASDs difficulty interacting with others and using language in conversation. They also have restrictive and repetitive interests or engage in repetitive behaviors. These deficits are usually evident before the age of 3. Individuals with ASDs often have difficulty learning how to perform everyday activities, and some have intellectual impairments that cause them to learn more slowly than their peers. While one person may have symptoms that impair his or her ability to perform daily activities, another may have only mildly noticeable difference and have few, if any, functional impairments. These characteristics fall across a "spectrum" ranging from mild to severe.

Researchers do not know the exact cause of autism but are investigating a number of theories which include links among heredity, genetics and medical problems.

"The event sends a message of hope to families dealing with autism," added Capitelli. "It is our goal to foster a culture where we embrace each others' differences and treat each other with mutual respect."

The Parent Teacher Organization donated the bubbles, Capitelli added. Staff members in addition donated $2 to wear jeans on Light It Up Blue Day and proceeds went to the Smile Train as the district continues to raise funds to meet its goal. Smile Train is a non-profit organization and charity which provides corrective surgery for children with cleft lips and palates. It is headquartered in New York City.