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Vote “yes” on June 8 to help our kids stay focused

By Staff | May 7, 2010

April was Autism Awareness Month. As usual I am a few weeks behind. There has been a lot of information in the news about autism the past few years. In our family, every day is Autism Awareness Day. It is something we can’t get away from, but have learned to live with.

It is pretty common knowledge today that 1 in 150 children are currently diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder in the United States. How do we, in Rugby, compare to the national average? Because of the current HIPAA regulations we can not be 100% sure. Unofficially, I have found our rate to be about 1 in 110. This includes children currently enrolled in our schools and some who are not. There may be more who are not diagnosed yet or who I do not know about.

Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Attention Deficit or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder struggle with many of the same difficulties in school. The number of students in our schools diagnosed with ADD?or ADHD is unknown. There are approximately 70 students in grades PK-12 who are receiving special education services. Many of these students will struggle with distractibility issues.

Currently in our schools there are fluorescent lights which hum and buzz loudly. I have sat in meetings in some of these classrooms and have had a hard time concentrating myself because of the loudness of the lights. These older light fixtures also tend to flicker at higher rates than the newer modes of lighting available today. This flickering also poses a distraction to special-needs students. It may lead to headaches, poor concentration and some say it increases hyperactivity.

Not only does the lighting cause distractions but the current heating system does as well. Ventilation problems exist that cause some classrooms to hover around 50-60 degrees in the winter, while some others may reach up to 90 degrees. How can you concentrate on the lesson when you are focusing on trying to stay warm? How do you stay awake in a classroom that nears 90 degrees? The heaters and vents in some rooms make loud banging noises. Teachers must compete with these distractions to keep our kids’ attention. It is not easy for the typical student to stay focused with these distractions. For students with autism or ADD-ADHD it can be nearly impossible.

After sitting in a hot classroom for an hour students need to get drinks of water. One teacher told me that the water fountain in the hallway near her room does not work between classes because people are flushing toilets in the bathrooms. There is not enough water pressure to do both during that busy time between classes.

There are some classrooms that have odor issues. It is not known if the odor is coming from mold or some other source. Students and teachers have said that these smells have given them headaches or made them feel ill while in these rooms.

In order for our kids to learn they must be able to focus on what is being presented. These are just some of the problems being encountered in our classrooms. We have the opportunity to eliminate these distractions by voting for the bond issue to improve our school. Like it or not, the stimulus plan put in place by President Obama has enabled us to receive 0% financing on school construction bonds. If Rugby does not use these funds, another school will. This is our opportunity to make the needed repairs now and save our taxpayers approximately 2.2 million dollars! The repairs need to be made. Now is the time. Vote yes on June 8. Vote to help our kids stay focused!

Berginski is a Rugby resident and mother of a child with autism.

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