JACKSON TWP. There was a lot of teamwork going on in the art classroom at Jackson Memorial Middle School on Nov. 21. As a result of the teamwork, the room was filled with excitement for a project the My Impact Lifts Others (MILO) Club was working on to create posters celebrating Thanksgiving.
MILO is a club for students with autism where they can gain friendships and increase communication skills with their typical peers. The club meets once a month after school to work on special projects or attend events.
Students at the November club meeting hung their posters in the hallways of the middle school in preparation for the upcoming holiday. After completing the project, the middle school students were going to participate in a game of hide and seek.
Intervention specialists Katie Raddish and Linsey Fentner said that is what happens most often during the MILO group meetings. Both are also MILO Club advisors.
“We are an after-school group that meets once a month and often times we do crafts and/or play a game,” Fentner said. “The group is open to students in the sixth through eighth grade. Some of the students come from multi-handicap classrooms and some are in general education classrooms. Right now, we have 10 students with autism and 15-20 typical students.”
Fentner said sometimes the club goes outside of the middle school for special events or meetings. She said last year the group helped build a car for the Akron’s Soap Box Derby and one of the typical students drove it in the race.
“All of the students went to watch the race. That’s a project we are planning to do again this year,” Fentner said. “We also visited the home of one of our volunteers for a Halloween party and we’ll be going back for a Christmas party. The volunteer has walking trails and a pond and so we visit there for some outdoor activities too.”
One of the goals of the club, according to Fentner, is for the typical students to encourage the students with autism to get involved and participate in the different activities. The club meets throughout the school year in the art room of the middle school.
The club on Nov. 21 was broken into groups of five or six students per group and were engaged and having fun with the project in one way or another in creating the Thanksgiving posters. Some were doing the drawing or the coloring, while others were offering suggestions. When each group decided the poster was finished, they went as a group to find the perfect spot to hang their poster in the hallway.
Fentner said that in addition to herself and Raddish, there are special education aides and a speech pathologist who also volunteer to help at club meetings.