Educators from District 75 sites throughout the city wore blue on April 11 to bring awareness to autism spectrum disorders and Down syndrome and to advocate for acceptance, understanding and inclusion for their students.
Some took the mandate a step further, donning blue wigs and wearing blue nail polish to make their point with joy on Autism Awareness Day.
“It gave us a sense of solidarity,” said Chapter Leader Luis Santana of PS 168 in the Norwood section of the Bronx. “Many of us identify with our students with autism and Down syndrome, and many of us have family members with autism and Down syndrome.”
At Santana’s school and others, students got into the act and wore blue that day, too. “Parents were aware of the special day, and they really appreciated it,” he said.
While UFT members at individual schools have worn blue in past years for Autism Awareness Day, this was the first time it was done throughout District 75, said David Doorga, the UFT District 75 representative. The event was marked at the majority of the district’s 400 sites, which have more than 10,000 UFT members.
“This is an initiative we’re very proud of,” Doorga said, adding that it gave everyone a renewed feeling of belonging to their school community.
For Lisa Viscovi, the chapter leader at P 993 at IS 208 in Bellerose, Queens, the message of the day was affirming. “It gave us a sense that it’s OK to be different; everyone is unique and we all have special talents.”