WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah – Some students in West Valley City used shaving cream filled balloons Wednesday, but it wasn't for an April Fools' Day prank-- instead, they're raising awareness about autism spectrum disorders, which affect one in 68 children.
Students at Whittier Elementary School ditched the books and picked up balloons filled with shaving cream to mark an occasion dear to their heart on Wednesday. The children who attend have been diagnosed with autism, and they were celebrating World Autism Awareness Day on the first instead of the second of this month due to spring break.
Brigitta Petersen, a special education teacher at Whittier Elementary School, said more and more children are being diagnosed.
“Our rates are going higher as far as kids getting diagnosed with autism, I think because... there's more education out there as to what is autism, what is the diagnosis of it,” she said.
Parents joined in the fun as the kids played with the shaving-cream filled balloons.
“Our kids are very sensory based, so they like tactile things,” Petersen said. “And so the whole popping is real good motor skills for them, but also the shaving cream, in general, is--they get their sensory filled from it.”
The day is also a time to reflect on how far students have come.
“From the beginning of the year, we had kids that don't talk,” Petersen said. “Now, we have kids talking in full sentences. We have kids who come to us that aren’t potty trained and are now going by themselves.”
The more students break through these challenges, the more the rest of the world can gain a better understanding.
“Here we are in our own little bubble” Petersen said. “But once our kids go out into society, and so we want people to understand our kids and understand the importance of this day.”