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Walter M. Kennedy Elementary School won the Autism Awareness Bulletin Board Contest with 245 votes.

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are on the rise, and students in Pell City are taking part in raising awareness this month to help people understand the causes and effects of the disorder.

Partnering with elementary schools in Pell City, RISE Academy hosted an Autism awareness bulletin board contest as part of April’s Autism Awareness Month.  Students, parents and teachers at participating campuses decorated a bulletin board for their school, and the RISE Academy held open voting on Facebook.  People had one week to cast their vote for their favorite bulletin board.

“This is something we’ve had planned for months now,” RISE principal Cindy Oden said.  “We just want to bring awareness to the community.”

Voting closed Friday at noon, and Walter M. Kennedy Elementary won the contest with 245 votes.

Kennedy’s principal, Leah Stover commended everyone involved for their dedication to the project, and Diana Havad with RISE Academy was also impressed.

“Everyone did a great job,” Havad said.  “Parents assisted with the board as well.  This is the first time we’ve done this, but we hope to continue with it every year.”

With the help of the special education teachers and staff at Kennedy, fourth-graders recently participated in a research project to study ASD.  The project began when students read a book about Autism called Rules by Cynthia Lord.

“It’s a story about a girl helping her younger brother who has Autism,” fourth-grader Dylan Droxler said.

Students interviewed special education teachers to learn about the symptoms of Autism and methods used to treat the spectrum of disorders.  The students will put their findings in a PowerPoint and present it to the entire fourth grade class at Kennedy.

According to the most recent Autism prevalence rate released by the CDC, 1 in 88 children are identified as having an autism spectrum disorder. The prevalence rate increases even more when describing the male population because 1 in 54 boys are identified as having an ASD, which is five times the rate of ASD in girls. Estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau indicate that there are as many as 54,800 Alabamians affected by ASD.

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