BOULDER, Colo. (KDVR) — Temple Grandin, a school in Boulder that serves neurodiverse children, including those on the autism spectrum, is walking miles for the cause. Students and staff are participating in a creative fundraiser to support autistic children and adults in Ukraine, who they believe have been forgotten during the invasion.
As the Russian invasion of Ukraine rages on, there’s one community that many might overlook and is experiencing the devastation of war in a different way. Jennifer Wilger, executive director and co-founder of the school, said sights, sounds and smells are magnified for the population.
“The autism community is often invisible here and around the world,” Wilger said. “The disability is not readily seen with the eye, but there are a lot of aspects that make stressful situations, and obviously war makes it worse and harder for these kinds of kids and their families to manage.”
During war, there are loud noises from bombings and explosions, there are sightings of destruction and flashing lights, and there is also a huge disruption of routine. All of those can be overstimulating and trigger those with autism.
‘Autistic people just don’t get recognized’
It’s something Elliott Quist knows all too well. The 10th-grader at Temple Grandin School told FOX31 that he and others often feel forgotten.
“Autistic people just don’t get recognized, because they typically end up being outcasts because they’re different,” Quist said. “The autistic kids in Ukraine are not only getting neglected and ignored, but they’re also getting attacked by this massive military force, and every bit of support helps.”
That support is now coming from Temple Grandin School as students, families and staff step up to help. They’ve vowed to walk 500 miles for the autism community in Ukraine with a goal of raising $10,000.
“When we get everybody out here walking together it’s pretty cool,” Wilger said. “We’ve been walking together once a week, every week.”
Wilger said that for the entire month, students have been walking laps around the school and at home with family members and logging their hours. They’re hoping this fundraiser during Autism Awareness Month helps those in Ukraine and beyond.
Quist has a message for autistic children in Ukraine, who he says he shares a special connection with.
“Hang on,” Quist said. “Regardless of how painful everything may be, I guarantee that there’s one person that’s out there looking out for you. If we can show that we care and we can prove that we care, via donations, it doesn’t really matter where we are in the world. As long as we’re supporting them, that’s really all we can do.”
How to help the Temple Grandin fundraiser
The school is collecting donations until April 30. Right now, they’ve raised a little more than $3,000, but need about $7,000 to reach their goal.
If you’d like to donate and help the autism community in Ukraine and the Boulder children reach their goal, visit this website.
If you’d like to mail a donation, send it to 3131 Indian Road, Boulder, CO 80301.
The school is partnering with Autism-Europe, Fundacja JiM (Poland) and Child With Future (Ukraine) to distribute the funds, which will be used to provide legal aid, professional therapies and material support for autistic refugees and their families.