Autism Awareness Month provides an opportunity to talk about building stronger and more inclusive communities for people with autism. Timon Kozelko, an Educational Assistant at École Sage Creek School (ÉSCS) and a Louis Riel School Division (LRSD) alumnus, organized several activities the week of April 5, to raise awareness for autism in the school community.
“Like many other people, I have autism,” said Kozelko. “I thought now would be a perfect opportunity to try to help people like me by raising awareness in the same place that helped me achieve success.”
Kozelko attended Island Lakes Community School in LRSD before graduating from J.H. Bruns Collegiate. He joined the ÉSCS team as an Educational Assistant in 2017.
“I pitched the idea of an Autism Awareness campaign during April to school administrators last year,” said Kozelko. “But plans were put on hold when students were sent home to learn in the spring.”
With staff and students in classrooms again this year, Kozelko’s plans were back in action. He created a video presentation for the school community to view throughout the week. In the presentation, Kozelko spoke about his experience living with autism and shared how students can get involved to make their classrooms and school inclusive for all. For younger students, Kozelko including the reading of It’s Okay to be Different by Todd Parr.
“My journey in LRSD helped me find the balance and happiness that makes my life so enjoyable,” said Kozelko. “It has led to long lasting friendships, a full-time job working with awesome colleagues and wonderful children, but it has also given me the skills to cope with everyday life. It’s important to share my experience because it helps break down stigmas about autism and shows how everyone has the ability to succeed as long as they have the right help.”
In addition to the videos, Kozelko organized a collective school project where students and staff could decorate a puzzle piece with what makes them unique.
“With the puzzle pieces, I wanted to highlight the connection that we all have to each other,” said Kozelko. “I hope that students and staff can look at the collage and know that their differences are what makes them special.”
On Friday, April 9, students and staff were encouraged to wear blue, the colour associated with Autism Awareness Month, to symbolize their support for people with autism.
Kozelko also planned a community fundraiser for Inclusion Winnipeg, a charity that supports the goal of ensuring success for all students with exceptionalities by giving them the support, resources and tools they need.