Menomonie middle schoolers host Autism Awareness Week

Published: Apr. 7, 2023 at 8:13 AM CDT
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Menomonie, Wis. (WEAU) -A group of students at Menomonie Middle School have come together to spread the message that it’s okay to be different.

As the bell rang for lunch at Menomonie middle school a sea of blue filled the cafeteria.

The middle schoolers were sporting blue on Wednesday to celebrate a week-worth of events organized by their peers.

“Autism Awareness Week is just a week where we can encourage people to just really show their support for Autistic people, like for example we are wearing blue today,” 7th grader, Amelia Osterhuas said. “We have a school dress up day, so today’s blue.”

Dress-up days were just one of the ideas these students known as the Autism Awareness group came up with.

“We are doing the penny wars which students bring in coins or dollars to put in their pod’s bin,” 8th grader, Aiden Anderson, said.

The group also had a table setup to sell stickers and bracelets. The money they fundraised will go towards adding a new edition to the sensory room at their school. A sensory room is a space for students to take a mental break if needed.

All of this was made possible by one 8th grader, Ian Conklin, who wanted to make a change at his school.

“Well it’s hosted by me back in 7th grade, which was like 2021,” Conklin said. “It went really well. We raised over like $1,400.”

for Conklin spreading awareness about Autism really hits home.

“I’ve had Autism for a while and in 7th grade I was bullied because this girl didn’t know I had Autism,” Conklin said. “Then after that I wanted to help kids with Autism not get bullied by people who don’t know that they have Autism.”

Although Conklin is the founder of the group he does not plan to let Autism Awareness Week come to a halt when he moves on to high school.

“After the week we are going to have a vote in the group to see who can become the next president for the group next,” Conklin said.

Osterhaus decided to throw her hat in the ring.

“I’m in the running, " Osterhaus said.  “We’re not 100 percent sure who’s going to be the next, but I’m running.”

Overall, the events were made possible by students who showcased their leadership skills by sending a positive message.

“I wanted to be there and be a part of making sure everyone’s included,” Anderson said

“I love planning it and I love just seeing it all in action,” Osterhaus said.

“We had so many 8th graders coming over that were picking out like the free stickers that we have over there and it’s like, they were like, we support Autism,” Conklin said.