WEST ORANGE, NJ – The annual Autism Awareness Carnival held at Mt. Pleasant Elementary School on May 12 celebrated district elementary, middle, and high school autistic students with a ceremony, bubble-blowing, a carnival and a barbecue.

The event began with comments by Mt. Pleasant Principal Julie DiGiacomo, Kelly Principal Dr. Joanne Pollara, Superintendent Jeff Rutzky, and Special Services Director Connie Salimbeno.

“We work with our students every day and love them and we have a partnership with our students, our parents, our teachers, our paraprofessionals and our administrators,” said Rutzky.

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Mt. Pleasant and Kelly students held up signs that featured words that described them beyond autism. Middle and high school students walked around the auditorium as “Imagine,” by John Lennon played. “Imagine” was the theme of event as teachers and paraprofessionals wore specially designed T-shirts.

“We have often heard it said that it takes a village to raise a child,” said Dr. Pollara. “Well, have you ever wondered what it takes to raise the awareness of that village? I believe it takes a child—perhaps a child with Autism. The Autism Awareness shirts that we wore in honor of Autism Awareness Month remind us that the way we look at our children—their gifts and the joy that they bring to our world is how they perceive themselves.  If we only focus on limitations, they will mirror that perception. “

Dr. Pollara concluded her comments by saying, “Alan Turing, a young man with Autism who created the first computer used to break codes in WW II said, ‘Sometimes it is the people no one can imagine anything of who do the things no one can imagine.’ Autism didn’t stop Mozart. It didn’t stop Einstein, nor did it stop Dr. Temple Grandin. It sure won’t stop our children either—Imagine that.”

After DiGiacomo thanked teacher Kristen Garces for organizing the event, the group moved outside to blow bubbles in front of the school. Parents, teachers, and students then headed to the back of Mt. Pleasant, where students were excited to see several inflatables, a train, a popcorn machine, and a barbecue catered by Sodexo as the celebration continued.

See all the photos from the Mt. Pleasant Autism Carnival here