2018 Ambassador of the Week 1: Meet Jennifer
April 07, 2018
2018 Ambassador of the week: April 1 to April 7
Jennifer Jones | Colonia, NJ
Jennifer is a social studies teacher at John Adams Middle School in Edison, and also the proud mother of Liam, 6, who was diagnosed with autism four years ago. She has distinguished herself by participating in various Autism New Jersey events and promoting autism awareness at her school, but her true labor of love is Laps for Liam, a swim-a-thon fundraiser dedicated to her son.
How are you are making a statement?
I run a page called Our Ducks in Corners: Autism Life on Facebook and find that to be a big part of reaching people. Social media makes it easy to reach so many in the community that share our journey, but the key is making everyone not so much aware, but more accepting and inclusive. I have been teaching for 19 years, and since we started this journey six years ago, I’ve shared a lot with my students, my colleagues, and parents. This generation is a lot more inclusive and truly interested in knowing more about autism.
Who or what is your inspiration?
First is always my son, Liam. My husband and I are continually amazed by his perseverance, strength, and adaptability. Liam is nonverbal and goes to a special school for children with multiple disabilities that really does so much for him. At 6 ½ he has limited sign language and uses TouchChat on his ipad to communicate. Though he can’t spell, he finds ways to communicate with it or adapt otherwise.
Getting students and faculty involved:
I have always been very open about my son and what life is like for him. They have gone to and raised money for Autism New Jersey Awareness events, including one at JP Stevens High School coming up April 15. One of the amazing teachers in our district, Lindsay James, and a former alumnus of JP Stevens, Rachel Toporek, began the walk last year and we were honored to have Liam as the guest of honor. Our students are very receptive to helping others, and my middle school students are currently heavily competing with their peers in Penny Wars for Autism New Jersey.
Autism awareness events:
I started to attend more events two years ago as I saw the need for awareness and inclusiveness. We attend many walks and other events throughout the year, but last year I began as an Autism NJ Ambassador and loved that, through walks and the swim-a-thon at the Aquatics Center, we’re giving back. My husband, Todd, and our friends John and Terri Thompson run a swim team, Laps for Liam, for the swim-a-thon and we’re currently getting ready to beat our donations from last year.
Hopes for the future:
My hope for the future is general patience and understanding by others. I’d like to think that we’ve gotten a few more people to stop before they judge a child crying and screaming at the store, or the child biting and hitting their parent at the park from over stimulation. It’s so difficult for people to really get it when they don’t live it day to day. The only way they can is if we keep sharing our stories and really putting our children in scenarios where they are part of the community and not “hidden away.”