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Promoting equality through “the gift of us all”
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Promoting equality through “the gift of us all”

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Dilshan Jayasinghe picEquality means recognising the talents of every individual, writes Dilshan Jayasinghe, 18, a Correspondent from Mississauga, Canada, who describes one school’s efforts to raise awareness and support those living with autism.

We are all born with gifts and talents that should be nurtured and cultivated. For this reason, I am not happy with a current term that is being used – ‘persons with disabilities’.

With the human rights code addressing the fact that all should be treated justly, I would prefer that we all should be seen for our unique talents, whatever they are.  I have taken up a mission to foster more understanding and awareness about autism. As defined by the Autism Society Canada, autism “is a neurological disorder which causes developmental disability. It affects the way the brain functions, resulting in difficulties with communication and social interaction, and unusual patterns of behaviour, activities and interests. Individuals with autism vary widely in their needs, skills and abilities.”

At John Cabot Catholic Secondary School, and subsequently as a student voice representative of the Dufferin Peel Catholic District School Board, I have spearheaded special events to support those who are living with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Since 2013, John Cabot Catholic Secondary School has been supporting this cause by having a charity civvies day where students donate $2.00 and, instead of wearing school uniforms that day, are encouraged to wear the four colours of autism (red, blue, yellow and light blue).

In my personal opinion, we as a school community should support those with Autism Spectrum Disorder because every child diagnosed with autism has a potential of doing something extraordinary. We should know that everyone has a gift. All proceeds from the civvies day were donated to Autism Ontario Peel Chapter, Canada, an organization that supports families with children with autism. This special civvies fund raiser has continued thanks to the support of the staff and students of John Cabot.  To date, our collective efforts at school have raised over $5000.00 for Autism Ontario Peel Chapter.

In 2014, John Cabot participated for its first time in the World Autism Awareness Day: Raise the Flag Campaign, where many communities raised a specially-designed flag on April 2nd to show support of those with autism.  In 2015, through my involvement as a student representative on the regional school board, I was able to encourage four other schools along with John Cabot to participate in the flag campaign.  Instead of “I” at John Cabot, it is now “we” as in we the district school board who participated in this special event to support those with autism. More schools participating in this event will create more awareness and support for the cause.

That support was extended as John Cabot started a T-shirt campaign to support World Autism Awareness Day, which was taken up by many other high schools in the region.  If we all work together, we could make a difference in awareness and attitudes. Many schools supporting the needs and gifts of those with autism is something that we should all be proud of as an achievement.  This in turn would be a testament towards recognising ‘The Gift of us All’.

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About me: I live in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.  I currently attend John Cabot Catholic Secondary School. I hope to attend the University of Guelph Humber, Toronto, Ontario, Canada in September 2015 with the aim of being an Accountant as my career.

I am the Program Officer of the International Youth Council, Mississauga Chapter.  During my spare time I am very involved in community activities, be it local or global.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/
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