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John Grant High walks and talks for autism acceptance

John Grant students prepare for their autism acceptance walk at John Grant High School on April 30. (Photo courtesy of John Grant High School.)
Montreal - Wednesday, May 5, 2021

John Grant students prepare for their autism acceptance walk at John Grant High School on April 30.
(Photo courtesy of John Grant High School)

By Jennifer Le Huquet

Humans are social creatures; we learn through story. At John Grant High School, our staff expertly weaves individual passions and shared experiences into a tapestry of inclusion that helps our newest members understand expectations and find their place in our beautiful school mosaic.

This year has proved challenging in so many ways. We needed to learn new safety protocols, adapt to changing sanitary measures and master new technologies. Most importantly, the pandemic has made us to return to the drawing board every time we had to consider how to create common experiences and meaning while staying in our separate bubbles.

The usual traditions that involve gathering to share food, music, stories and sport are not options – and yet “where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

Each month our school comes together to celebrate a theme and create meaningful memories that form the individual patches of our quilt, a quilt that tells a story of resilience and hope, a quilt that tells our story.

April is Autism Awareness Month. About one in three students at John Grant High School are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. To celebrate the occasion, we organized the Autism Acceptance Walk and Talk, a month-long effort to raise awareness and build a stronger inclusive community for those with autism.

Organized by our students that are learning virtually and teacher, Peter MacLean, it kicked off with guest speakers who addressed all students in their classrooms via live broadcast on Google Meet. Student Vincent Lemieux shared his experiences as a young man with autism. Lemieux introduced our second speaker, Martin Gould, owner of Promo21, a socially responsible custom T-shirt printing and packaging company that employs adults with special needs. Promo21 produced T-shirts for our event emblazoned with a logo and slogan designed by the students. It read: Why celebrate autism acceptance month? On the autism spectrum, the possibilities are limitless!

Students in our DEFIS classes made the T-shirts into works of art by tie-dying them using multiple colours. All student and staff participated in the walk, proudly wearing our T-shirts and carrying signs urging those in our wider community to take notice and learn from our example of inclusion and acceptance.

Students and staff participated virtually from home, while those at school walked 3 km in their class bubbles on April 30. Joined by representatives from the city of Côte Saint-Luc, the local police force and the English Montreal School Board, our students will long remember the feeling of purpose and belonging, of cooperation, celebration and unity. Another beautiful patch in our quilt.

Jennifer Le Huquet is the principal of John Grant High School of the English Montreal School Board.

T-shirts designed by John Grant students and printed by Promo 21. Photo courtesy of John Grant High School.