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🦋 Celebrating Differences


On Friday, April 1st, the first day of Autism Acceptance Month and the day before World Autism Awareness Day, schools across JUSD celebrated with educational resources, supportive spirit wear, and fun activities. 

butterfly scavenger hunt“It’s important to celebrate autism awareness and acceptance because we need to see our students for what they can do, celebrate their differences, and make sure everybody knows that all of our students have strengths and all of our students have weaknesses,” stated Dr. Karina Becerra-Murillo, Director of Special Education.

At Pedley Elementary, staff developed an autism-themed scavenger hunt. Students looked for colorful butterflies around campus, and each butterfly was paired with a fact about autism. “The butterfly is a great symbol of growth and change and diversity along with the [rainbow] infinity symbol,” shared Griselda Huizar, the resource specialist who first proposed the idea. “[These symbols signify] all the diversity within the autism community.”

Ms. Huizar’s goal for the scavenger hunt was not only for Pedley students to have fun but for them to learn more about the autism spectrum. Teachers also had videos to share so that students could gain a better understanding and abandon some of the common misconceptions.

Griselda explaining autism facts to students“The needs of some of our students are completely different,” acknowledged Ms. Huizar. “I want [students outside the spectrum] to understand that they can approach these students and help them feel welcome on campus.”

For Spectrum Jurupa Valley, a non-public elementary school partnered with Jurupa Unified and housed on Ina Arbuckle’s campus, Autism Acceptance Month is especially relevant. The school is unique in that it exclusively serves students on the autism spectrum. 

“[Our students] get a different level of support than you're able to provide in a group of students who have various disabilities,” said Suzanne Berry, program director. “We really get the opportunity here to focus on building up their language, their social skills, and their communication.”

To mark World Autism Awareness Day, Spectrum staff shared resources with Ina Arbuckle teachers, drew positive chalk messages on sidewalks, and put up posters about autism across campus. Because the two schools regularly interact, it is important that Ina Arbuckle students be aware of and accepting of students on the spectrum.

Cera and Suzanne in front of autism acceptance posterCera Rivera, Spectrum’s behavior coordinator, routinely takes students to visit Ina Arbuckle's classrooms so they become familiar with the general education environment. “We want them to be able to be in a regular classroom around other kids so they can socialize and have a little bit more of that independence and freedom,” she said.

These visits support one of Spectrum’s goals, which is to teach students the functional skills they need to join district schools when the time comes.

“The impact that Spectrum has had on our students has been very significant,” shared Dr. Becerra-Murillo. “A lot of our kids come into our preschool programs - maybe they're nonverbal, maybe they have a lot of significant behaviors - and typically by the time they’re in about 6th grade, they’re able to [join the District]. That's a huge impact [that] speaks to the amount of support our students get here at Spectrum.”

For more information about Spectrum Jurupa Valley, please visit their website​.