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Southmoreland Primary students will hop to it

| Thursday, March 29, 2012

Staff and students at Southmoreland Primary Center will pull together for one day in April to hop and jump their way around the school's cafeteria to show support for autism awareness and research.

Kelly Most, autistic support teacher at the primary center, said the idea came to her when she was brainstorming how the whole school could participate in World Autism Day. Monday is World Autism Day. The theme this year is "Light it up Blue."

"Students, teachers and staff will all be wearing blue clothing to shine a light on autism, but I wanted to do more this year," Most said. "My thought was that it would be an easy way for students to raise money by participating in a mini walk or a 'Bunny Hop for Autism.' "

She added that it is a win-win event -- students show their support for autism awareness and research while at the same time keeping their bodies active and healthy.

On Monday, students will go outside, weather-permitting, or to the gym during their 40-minute itinerant class period so that no academic instructional time will be lost.

"We will have high school YEA (Youth Education Association) helpers walking with and cheering on students to keep their bodies moving around the track by walking, hopping, skipping or galloping during their 40-minute walk time," Most said.

In addition, music will be playing to promote a positive atmosphere and encourage students to keep up the pace.

Most said envelopes were sent home with all students so they could get family members, friends and neighbors to sponsor them. Sponsors can donate by cash or check or donate online using a credit card. All money raised will be donated to Autism Speaks in honor of students with autism spectrum disorders at Southmoreland.

The top 10 students who raise the most money will be rewarded by attending a pizza party with the Easter Bunny on Tuesday.

"It's important for me to get our students and teachers involved in this event, to show our support for World Autism Awareness Day," Most said. "Autism spectrum disorders affect an estimated three million individuals in the U.S. and tens of millions worldwide."

She added that autism is becoming more prevalent within the community.

"I feel that it's my job to not only educate our children, but to spread awareness," Most said. "The more that our students and families are aware, the more understanding and compassion they will show in return."

Daniel Clara, director of Pupil Services within the district and principal at the primary center, said that

staff in the district, who work closely with autistic students, feel very connected to the awareness programs and know what those programs can mean to the students.

"Our autistic support teachers, and our teachers in the primary center and elementary school, have been instrumental in supporting our autistic students in our buildings," he said.

This is not the only event the school will conduct this year to raise awareness for autism.

"Our school has a walk team, 'Helping Hands,' that will be participating for the third year in the Walk Now for Autism Speaks Laurel Highlands."

The event will be held on May 20 in Idlewild Park in Ligonier. Registration starts at 1 p.m. The walk begins at 3 p.m. Three Southmoreland teachers are on the planning committee for the walk. YEA students will be volunteering.

Anyone interested in joining or supporting "Helping Hands" can do so by visiting They will be holding a car wash at County Market in Mt. Pleasant from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 12. All proceeds will go to Autism Speaks.

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