The “Kindness Counts” Campaign does more than create awareness – instead, Student Transportation of America (STA) strives to create a kinder and more inclusive world for people on the autism spectrum and their families.
Autism Acceptance Month, which is celebrated in April, helped kick-start the campaign’s initiatives. STA explained its goal for the campaign was to amplify the work of organizations such as Autism Speaks, the largest autism research organization in the U.S., and the Autism Society, an organization that advocates for improving the lives of those affected by autism.
While the “Kindness Counts” Campaign was only launched this year, STA has been working to further Autism awareness for over ten years, according to Shelly Hall, vice president of health and safety for the company. She added that STA has participated in Autism Acceptance Month over the years in various ways, including displaying blue lights at bus terminals, as well as wearing blue t-shirts and blue nail polish in conjunction with the Autism Speaks “Light It Up Blue” campaign.
Additionally, during Autism Acceptance Month the company made advocacy and other informational resources such as graphics and posters available on its Student Resources and School Resources pages. STA also created a Kindness Pledge for students to sign, as well as a coloring book that reinforced the importance of acceptance and empowerment.
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Hall added that according to Autism Speaks, data shows that 90 percent of people on the autism spectrum have experienced bullying at some point in their life. STA hopes that the Kindness Counts campaign will help to reduce that number by fostering an environment of understanding and inclusivity.
The COVID-19 pandemic very suddenly disrupted students’ daily routines, which Hall pointed out can be especially difficult for students with special needs.
“For these children, the sudden change of not seeing their bus drivers and aides each day can have a major impact,” Hall said. “Thankfully we are slowly returning to more normal operations and our most vulnerable students are getting back to school and getting the support they need academically and emotionally. Seeing the familiar face of their bus driver and monitor on the bus is a return to normalcy.”
Hall added that the company is also helping to foster an environment of compassion by providing a training program for school bus drivers and monitors that focuses on working with students with autism.
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to reflect that Autism Acceptance Month is celebrated in April.
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