A partnership of the ages:

CHAFE 150/Sandpoint Rotary Club and Lake Pend Oreille School District help “Light It Up Blue” for autism awareness

By Ben Olson
Reader Staff

Abbott and Costello. Ben and Jerry. Peanut butter and jelly. What would the world be like without these famous pairings?

More importantly, what would our community be like without the partnership of CHAFE 150 / Sandpoint Rotary Club and Lake Pend Oreille School District?

Over the last three years, the CHAFE 150 bike race, sponsored by Sandpoint Rotary Club, has donated over $100,000 to LPOSD, and what’s more, they’ve pledged to continue the program for another three years.

According to Dr. Joy Jansen, director of special education at LPOSD, the funds donated by CHAFE 150 have been instrumental.

Members of the Wednesday Sandpoint Rotary Club meeting wear blue in support of World Autism Awareness Day, which falls on April 2. Photo by Ben Olson.

Members of the Wednesday Sandpoint Rotary Club meeting wear blue in support of World Autism Awareness Day, which falls on April 2. Photo by Ben Olson.

“It’s humbling,” she said. “Donated funds have provided LPOSD the opportunity to enrich and refine how we serve students with autism spectrum disorder”.

The proceeds raised from the popular bike event help LPOSD assist students on the autism spectrum. The donations provide research-based tools and programs known to have a positive impact on learning and self-esteem.

Jansen said the donated funds have helped establish a framework of ongoing training to better serve the needs of students, as well as the community. The steps of the framework include school building support, LPOSD foundational framework, curriculum and tools (including resources) and professional development/sustainability.

Just recently, Jansen added a fifth tier to the framework called community outreach.

“This is the first year we’re doing community outreach,” said Jansen. “It’s a big piece of the puzzle. For students on the autism spectrum, they don’t live at school, they live in the community and a lot receive outside services. Community Outreach helps triangulate the school, community and other agencies and home, so that we’re all on the same page.”

LPOSD and Team Autism 24/7 will be a hosting a presentation highlighting two specialists in social thinking on Wednesday, April 20 at the Sandpoint High School Auditorium. Social Cognitive Specialist Nancy Clements and Developmental Clinical Psychologist Nancy S. Cotton, PhD, will be giving a presentation titled “Effective Treatment: The Behavior-Social-Emotional Link.”

While the funds go directly toward servicing the autism community, Jansen said the implications are wider reaching.

“Although we talk about autism, everything we do doesn’t just benefit kids on the spectrum, it benefits all the kids we work with,” said Jansen. “The symptoms overlap with a lot of other diagnoses such as ADHD and PTSD. There are a lot of similarities.”

School districts all across the region also have a chance to benefit from the funds, according to Jansen, because of community outreach and sharing of information.

“We’re lucky to have these funds,” she said. “A lot of school districts would love to have this money. No other northern school district has this funding support. So, we do outreach so other districts can benefit as well. It’s a way to share the gift, and this amazing and humbling gift has allowed our rural school district to bring in experts to a rural area to share what they have learned.”

Another aspect of community outreach was seen in great numbers at Wednesday’s Sandpoint Rotary Club meeting, when members dressed in blue to show their support for World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD).

Introduced by national organization Autism Speaks, WAAD is in its eighth year of honoring millions of individuals and families affected by autism. As part of the event, thousands of global landmarks like One World Trade Center in New York City, and the Suez Canal in Africa will “Light It Up Blue.”

Through the efforts of CHAFE 150, the Sandpoint Rotary Club and other community organizations like Team Autism 24/7, those who have family and friends on the autism spectrum may receive the training and resources to better understand one of life’s most mysterious disorders.

“This partnership is one of the most amazing and powerful things to happen for students,” said Jansen. “Not just those on the autism spectrum, but all students with special needs.”

In the next three issues, the Reader will profile three local families with children on the autism spectrum to help shed light on their daily lives. Stay tuned, and thanks to all those who donate to the above-mentioned organizations.

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