Educational donations benefit local students with autism

Mary Bullwinkel

Beacon Correspondent

Monetary donations and iPads from Families Advocating Autism Now will benefit Humboldt County students in six local schools. This is the third round of grants awarded to local educators to improve the educational experience of students with autism.

Washington Elementary School teacher Jennifer Huffstetler has received her second grant from FAAN, this time a $250 monetary gift, which she plans to use to purchase items from a Fun and Function catalog and additional applications for the iPad she received from FAAN last year.

"We are in desperate need of items to address sensory processing and sensory motor skills," Huffstetler said in her grant application. She plans to use the money for purchasing items that are age and grade level appropriate in areas including basic skills, assistive technology, fine motor skills, and tools for assisting with focus.

"I want you all to know that the work and dedication that you provide children and families in this area is life-changing and so very much appreciated by so very many," Huffstetler said, expressing her appreciation for being a FAAN grant recipient.

Washington Elementary School Principal Jennifer Johnson will also be receiving a $250 FAAN grant, which she plans to use for staff training specific to autism.

"It's amazing what a little extra can do!" she said, thanking the local group for the grant.

Robin John teaches a Glen Paul School class on the Pacific Union School campus in Arcata, and is the third recipient of a $250 FAAN grant. She plans to use the money to purchase Arcata Transit bus tickets for five class field trips this year.

"Riding and navigating public transit is an important experience for our students," Paul said. Planned field trips include the Arcata Marsh, two HSU Center Arts performances, the Arcata Community Forest, and a tour of the Co-op.

Teachers receiving iPads to use in their classrooms are Amy Carlstad of Freshwater School, Debbie Connolly of Redway Elementary School, Debbie Carpenter of Washington Elementary School, Dustin Bradshaw of Grant Elementary School, and Adam Crug and Kevin Scheffler of Dows Prairie Elementary School.

"It's nice to have an organization provide this educational tool, as it adds that extra piece that we (the school district) can't always provide for the students," said Eureka City Schools Superintendent Fred Van Vleck. "It really helps, and it has a positive impact on many students."

Funding for these grants is generated mainly by FAAN's annual fundraiser at Rosina Vineyards in Redcrest. This year, the fifth annual event was held on Aug. 25 and raised $33,000, the organization's most successful fundraiser so far. The value of last week's educational donation was more than $3,500.