Local carnival benefits state autism society

Apr. 05, 2014 @ 05:22 PM

Jessica Phan helped her class at E.M. Rollins Elementary win a pizza party.

The first-grader sold $100 worth of tickets to Saturday’s Autism Carnival.

When asked how she sold so many tickets, she said she approached customers at her father’s business, Nail Season.

“While they were waiting to get their nails done, I asked if they wanted to buy a ticket,” Phan said.

The pizza parties was one way Tammy Crawford tried to spread the word about the carnival that drew more than 100 people to the Crossroads Shopping Center on West Andrews Avenue Saturday.

Crawford, whose grandson has autism, said she wanted to put together a kid-friendly autism awareness event in Henderson.

“We have done garage sales in the past, but I thought, ‘Let’s do something for the children,’” she said.

She went to E.M. Rollins, Clarke, and Zeb Vance Elementary schools and offered a pizza party to the class selling the most tickets to the event.

On Saturday, vendors sold food, crafts and homemade gifts along the sidewalks of the shopping center. Five different varieties of bounce houses were set up for the kids, as well as face painting stations and horse rides.

All the proceeds from the event went to the Autism Society of North Carolina.

“It’s my way of giving back,” Crawford said.

Before her grandson was diagnosed with autism, she said she didn’t know much at all about the condition.

But, she said, the Autism Society of North Carolina helped direct her family to the resources available to them.

Autism Spectrum Disorder refers to a group of developmental disabilities – including classic autism – that affect a person’s ability to understand what they see, hear and otherwise sense, according to the Autism Society of North Carolina website.

Individuals with ASD typically have difficulty understanding verbal and nonverbal communication and learning appropriate ways of relating to other people, objects and events.

Terri Perkins said Vance County Schools has a growing population of children who are diagnosed on the autism spectrum. She is the program specialist for Exceptional Children in Vance County Schools.

“We see a lot more children with autism coming in at a young age, many as young as 3 years old,” said Perkins, who attended the event.

Alka Singh, an Exceptional Children teacher at Clarke Elementary, said autism awareness events help counter the abundance of misinformation people have about the condition.

“These children are a little bit different,” she said. “And if people don’t know about autism, they will not understand why they are different.”

Contact the writer at smansur@hendersondispatch.com.