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Oxbridge Autism Coalition

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The Oxbridge Autism Coalition (OAC) is one particular club that has made a difference not only in the Oxbridge community, but in another local school’s community as well: The Renaissance Learning Academy (RLA). The RLA serves children from ages 14-21 who are on the autistic disorder spectrum. Their mission is “Preparation for Life After School. To achieve this mission our school helps individuals with autism spectrum disorder in the areas of academics, vocational skills, functional life skills, and social and communication skills.” Oxbridge Academy students welcome the Renaissance Learning Academy to eat lunch with them every other Tuesday in the shared French and Chinese classroom.

So what is autism? Autism and the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are two terms used to describe a complex group of neurological issues that form during the brain’s development. These neurological issues affect basic and fundamental abilities such as social interactions, verbal and nonverbal communication, fine motor skills, behavior, and intelligence. It can also affect the person’s physical health and appearance.

A child is born with autism and symptoms of autism can start to show as early as 2 to 3 years of age. When a child is young, it may be easy to spot if they have autism. Simple tasks such as gripping, focusing, and sitting up on their own, may be delayed. There is no cure for this developmental disorder, but treatment such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy may help. Children with autism often excel in particular subjects like math, music and art, and can have an exceptional memory. Autism can also range from mild to severe. Note the word spectrum in ASD, meaning there are a range of symptoms, from mild to severe.

Despite all of these terms used to define someone with Autism Spectrum Disorder, the Renaissance Learning Academy and the Oxbridge Autism Coalition have come together to clarify common misconceptions of children with autism. As someone who both works with the OAC and has a sibling on the spectrum, Luke Herman believes that “working and talking to kids on the spectrum can really help boost their social skills.” He thinks that “what we do with The Renaissance Learning Academy is wonderful and extremely important.”

OAC allows children with autism to come to a safe, welcoming, and approachable environment to practice these fundamental skills. It is a great atmosphere for children from both sides to form relationships with each other where both are comfortable. Erik Parry, who is both part of the OAC and has a brother named Jack in the program, says that the Autism Coalition allows us to “connect with kids and positively impact their lives by establishing a friendly relationship where they can open up. My brother is so excited and often talks about how he is part of the ‘Oxbridge Family.’ People who have learning disabilities are just like you and me, wanting to be acknowledged and feel needed and valued. They know and understand a lot more than you think, and have exceptional talents that, with patience, you can draw out.”

The OAC’s goal is to not only have children with autism interact with other students who don’t have the disorder, but also to promote autism awareness and show how autism does not define a person. Quinn McKenna, a student who volunteers and is part of the OAC, says, “The Autism Coalition has greatly increased my awareness of an obstacle many people face and I have learned that autism is not a disease, it is not just a diagnosis, and it is not something that defines someone. It is merely a piece of a puzzle that makes up a beautiful person.”

Please come and support your local autism and school community every other Tuesday. If you would like to subscribe to the email list to be updated, please contact Allison Berkner ([email protected]), Asia Smith ([email protected]), or Dr. Riordan ([email protected]).


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Oxbridge Autism Coalition