MOUNT CARMEL - In observance of Autism Awareness Month in April, Safety Net Counseling encouraged families to create projects with their children.

"As we know, not one child is the same or fits into a specific mold," said Christin Hughes, mobile therapist/behavior specialist consultant. " Over the last five years, the families we serve that have children on the autism spectrum have increased drastically. One of the main reoccurring themes with the families is that the kids are struggling with who they really are. Most of them are so torn between what society feels they should be and who they really are."

Autism families were invited to complete a trifold/poster contest at the beginning of the month. They were asked to work with the children to create a project that shows who they are and what they are about. They were asked to define their autism, identify their likes and dislikes, the coping skills they need and other things that inspire them or work for them.

"I just hope to spread awareness so people will understand what it is like for our children that are on the spectrum," said Roxanne O'Connell, mother of a participant. "I just want people to understand how hard these kids have it. I just want them to be treated with the respect they deserve, that they are different, not less. I hope this poster will help people understand and be informed."

"Working on the autism awareness project with my youngest was interesting, frustrating and eye-opening," said Christina Curran. "Eric would like to create an app that is both Android and iOS compatible. With my training in this area I enjoyed helping him design pages of the website."

Place winners were: Eugene O'Connell, 16, of Shamokin, first place; Eric Curran, 11, of Shamokin, second; Xzavier Rose, 5, of Shamokin, third, and Ronald Lutes, age 20, of Mount Carmel, honorable mention.