April is for Awareness

The Dallastown community comes together to each spring to support autism awareness in a variety of ways.
The 3rd annual silent disco was held at Dallastown. 5 neighboring school districts participated with the same goal of promoting autism awareness.
The 3rd annual silent disco was held at Dallastown. 5 neighboring school districts participated with the same goal of promoting autism awareness.
Chesley Ellis

For over 50 years, the month of April has been recognized as Autism Awareness Month.

Autism spectrum disorders are developmental disorders that often affect communication skills, social interaction, obsessive interests, speech, and repetitive behaviors. 1 in 100 children are diagnosed with autism.

Abby Leiphart is the Autistic Support Teacher at Dallastown High School. She said there are many ways for the community and local businesses to support individuals with autism in our community.

“They can provide opportunities to partner with the schools to allow more employment opportunities for students with disabilities when they graduate high school. Partnering with schools allows for the school to support the student while also educating the business,” Leiphart said. 

Individuals with autism are a part of the community and should receive equal love and respect. 

Working with students with autism has shown me a different type of love and that love has no disability,” said Leiphart.

In an effort to spread awareness, multiple events are going on around Dallastown. One notable event at Dallastown is the third annual Silent Disco. This is an event held in the middle school gym where students from neighboring schools came together to support autism awareness. 

What is unique about a silent disco is the music is played through headphones with adjustable volume and stations. 

“The silent disco is an opportunity for students with disabilities to have a high school dance with their friends that could be more accommodating to their needs.” Leiphart shared. 

Headphones make the event more sensory-friendly for individuals with autism, as opposed to traditional events where music is played through large speakers.

A local business, Parma Pizza of Dallastown, is also hoping to spread awareness at the shop. The owner, Darren Bonacquisti, has a special tie to the month of April and autism awareness.  

“My oldest son is my inspiration to do anything that will help and support the special-needs community,” he stated.

Bonacquisti is selling bracelets as well as other awareness items with the proceeds benefiting Rosie’s Class, an afterschool club at Dallastown for individuals with and without intellectual disabilities.

Parma Pizza of Dallastown is selling autism awareness bracelets with various sayings. All proceeds will benefit Rosie’s Class at Dallastown High School. (Chesley Ellis)

“Blake aged out and graduated from Dallastown School District and was a member of the Life Skills class as well as a member of Rosie‘s Class, which was an incredible group For Blake,” said Bonacquisti. 

As well as the awareness items for sale, the shop will be putting stickers on the pizza boxes every day in April as well as employees wearing autism acceptance shirts.

Bonacquisti also has members of the Dallastown Life Skills class working at the shop on Tuesdays and Thursdays for their work program.

“I think everyone deserves the right to be treated equally and fairly and never look at things as a disability but what their ability is.”

He does many things for the community and is well known for his kindness among the community. 

“Being around so many incredible people and dealing with Blake has made me want to be a better person every day, and to make sure to be someone who stands up for people who can’t stand up for themselves, and the very little that I can do is nowhere near, but I wish I could do to help out an incredible community of people who deserve so much more.”

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