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What is Ability Awareness?

In 2011 Haddon Heights Public Schools organized its first annual Ability Awareness events. Ability Awareness is a district-wide initiative that focuses on raising awareness and celebrating differences to work to build a world of inclusion. Although this is a constant frame of mind that the district promotes, the Special Education Parent Advocacy Group (SEPAG), staff, students and community members continue to organize new events to increase acceptance and raise awareness. Since its inception Abilities Awareness has not only been embraced by the school community but also Haddon Heights Borough as a whole. Abilities Awareness has been recognized by the Borough of Haddon Heights and community leaders and local businesses are active partners in spreading this positive message with the goal of creating an accepting and inclusive town-wide environment for all residents.

Ability Awareness Initiative 2016-17:

"Rock Your Socks"

This year, we will participate in Rock Your Socks. The idea behind it is that together we can create a single global voice for advocating for the rights, inclusion and well-being of people with Down syndrome in our school, community and around the world. March 21st is World Down Syndrome Day. It was selected to signify the uniqueness of the triplication (trisomy) of the 21st chromosome which leads to Down Syndrome.

 

Join us as we show support and build awareness! 

 

We will also organize an Ice Cream Social for Williams Syndrome. Williams Syndrome is a genetic condition that is present at birth and can affect anyone.  It is characterized by medical problems, including cardiovascular disease, developmental delays, and learning disabilities.  These often occur side by side with striking verbal abilities, highly social personalities and an affinity for music.

 

Stay posted for event dates and specifics, and check out the Parent Advisory Group link if you are interested in joining to plan the fun.


Ability Awareness Initiative 2015-16: "Strength"

Strength Project for Ability Awareness

Rikki Rogers said, “Strength doesn’t come from what you can do. It comes from overcoming the things you once thought you couldn’t.” Spring 2016, students recorded written messages (on streamers) describing something they take pride in, have overcome, and or accomplished to celebrate Ability Awareness. Students displayed their streamers at recess on the playground fences. Stop to read the messages that display our determination to succeed!




"LIGHT IT UP BLUE 2016"

 

In honor of people with Autism worldwide, iconic landmarks, hotels, sporting venues, concert halls, museums, schools, universities, bridges, retail stores, and thousands of homes light it blue beginning on April 2nd! In our second year of community-wide support, homes switched the bulbs on their front porch to blue throughout the month of April, and staff and students wore blue to show our strength in solidarity.

Ability Awareness 2014-2015: "Give Back!"

"Light It Up Blue"

The month of April is Autism Awareness month and the Haddon Heights and Lawnside communities supported, celebrated and spread awareness for individuals diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, which currently impacts 1 and 68 individuals.  “Light It Up Blue” was a month long event in which households and businesses used blue lights to symbolize their support. School staff and students also wore blue t-shirts on April 17th as a show of unity for our friends and families who are impacted by ASD. Student art and Autism Awareness Trees created by our SEPAG committee were also displayed district-wide. Throughout Haddon Heights and Lawnside 300 light bulbs were purchased, as well as, 165 t-shirts with proceeds going towards Abilities Awareness to continue the initiative of raising awareness and celebrating differences.

Autism Awareness Trees

School and community members donated puzzle pieces to the school to help make an "Autism Awareness Tree" to be displayed at each of the districts elementary schools. At the October SEPAG meeting parent and staff volunteers came to together to create trees from the donated puzzle pieces. Now the trees will be painted by elementary students to prepare for display.

Why Puzzle Pieces? On a nationwide level, the Puzzle Piece symbol reflects the mystery and complexity of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Also, since every puzzle piece is different in some way, a puzzle piece accurately represents the diversity of the individuals affected.

Ability Awareness 2013-2014: “Bubbling Up Awareness”

Bubbling Up Awareness

In October 2013 Haddon Heights students and community members took part in the fundraising theme of “Bubbling Up Awareness.” At the elementary level, staff and students participated during recess and at the half time of the Haddon Heights High School Football game, the crowd released bubbles to raise awareness. A t-shirt to fundraise and commemorate the event was created by Haddon Heights High School Senior Anthony Johnson.

Community-Wide Read

Fundraising efforts allowed the purchase of community wide reading materials, Carly’s Voice or The Reason I Jump, which were made available to community members, staff and students. Participants joined in a reading and reflection book talk on April 30th in the High School Library.

Essay and Poster Contest

Haddon Heights elementary students participated in poster and essay contests to celebrate and spread the message of abilities awareness with over 100 entries submitted! Posters were displayed with pride around the school district and throughout the Haddon Heights community with local businesses providing window front exhibits. 

Poster Contest: Pre-K–2nd Grade

Essay Contest: 3rd–6th Grade

Abilities Awareness Night

Abilities Awareness Night was held on April 16, 2014 in the Seventh Avenue Multi-Purpose Room. Event highlights included poster and essay contest student presentations/readings and awards, a parent panel, and teacher led activities for the students to participate in to help raise awareness.

Ability Awareness 2012–2013 

Throughout Abilities Awareness Week, teachers from all Haddon Heights and Lawnside elementary schools and the junior/senior high school were invited to participate in reading aloud a book with the students to inform, teach, and enhance their knowledge of disabilities and differences. Some of the book titles included: “Everyone Matters” by Pat Thomas, “If You're so Smart, How Come You Can't Spell Mississippi” by Barbara Esham, and “Different Like Me: My Book of Autism Heroes” by Jennifer Elder.

Students in the elementary schools were able to “rock out” with community performer Sara O'Brien as she performed “Being Weird is Cool,” a program which teaches children to respect differences, celebrate uniqueness, and embrace weirdness, through music and self-expression. Elementary students were also invited to write an “I Can” statement on a post-it, which were placed on display at the entrances of each school. School library displays were also available to students and teachers with both fiction and non-fiction literature related to abilities awareness.

Other community-wide events included the STEPS Abilities Awareness Family Film Night to watch the HBO Documentary The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia. Directed by James Redford, The Big Picture is a personal, touching and sometimes humorous look at this developmental reading disorder, offering a broader and clearer view of the minds of people with dyslexia, and how an individual’s unique strategies for coping can help lead to success in life.

Ability Awareness Week came to a close with our Ability Awareness Night, which was hosted by the Haddon Heights Child Study Team. The evening kicked off with the introduction of our Ability Awareness contest winners, who shared their winning essays, drawings, and videos with the community. Guest speaker Dr. Paul Wichansky, who spoke to the junior/senior high school students earlier in the day, delivered a powerful, humorous, and enlightening presentation on overcoming challenges. Dr. Paul's message is simple: when we allow our imagination and our realistic possibilities to soar, we can confidently leap over some of the most overwhelming hurdles that life throws at us. Various stations were also on display throughout the night, including cochlear implants, sign-language, assistive technologies, and physical therapy.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank those who joined us and shared their time and message with our community:

  • Dr. Paul Wichansky, speaker from A Vision in Motion
  • Sara O'Brien, performer from Community Rocks!
  • Beth Greer, Assistive Technology Specialist/Instructional Technologist from Bancroft School
  • Norman Rothstein, Assistive Technology Specialist from Bancroft School
  • Heather Kriesman, Augmentative Communication Specialist from Bancroft School
  • Lisa Musumeci, from Advancing Opportunities
  • Kathy Simcox, friend of the district from Gloucester Township
  • Carolyn Tassini, Physcial Therapy Team Leader from Moss Rehab & her assistant Seamus the Service Dog
  • Haddon Heights STEPS and SEPAG groups
  • The teachers, staff and administration of Haddon Heights School District
  • The Borough of Haddon Heights for their resolution to recognize Ability Awareness Week

Town-Wide Walk

Over 75 people registered for the Ability Awareness Walk! The day proved to be a success as the group walked through the community to raise awareness and fundraise for Abilities Awareness Week in the spring. 

Ability Awareness Week 2011–2012 Information

Abilities Awareness Week School-Wide Read-Alouds

Lesson Plans, Activities, and Writing Contest Information for all Haddon Heights Schools

Events List

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