Event Celebrates Easter, Autism Awareness

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King Fosque (right) and his brother Kaine Fosque model the face masks that King designed for a contest he won, sponsored by Accomack County Parks and Recreation. Photo by Stefanie Jackson.

By Stefanie Jackson – Accomack County Parks and Recreation (ACPR) found a way to celebrate Easter and Autism Awareness Month during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic with a family drive-thru “eggstravaganza” and parade at Sawmill Park April 3.

Barbara Boggs, special events coordinator for ACPR, organized the drive-thru with 300 Easter bags for children and 125 gift bags for adults, filled with items donated by local organizations.

A parade was led by the family vehicle of grand marshal King Fosque, an Accomack second grader who has autism.

King won the Design a Mask for Kids Contest in October 2020, sponsored by ACPR, and 1,000 face masks with the winning design were distributed to Accomack elementary schools.

The design – a smiley face on a blue background with the words, “I Am Smiling Under This Mask” – fits King’s personality because he “always liked to be the center of attention” and “always liked to smile,” Katina Fosque said.

King, who enjoys drawing, submitted four entries to the contest; his final submission was the winner.

His mother described what it has been like having a school-age child with autism during the COVID-19 pandemic.

King was diagnosed with autism more than two years ago, when he was in kindergarten. The most challenging symptom of King’s autism was exhibited as disruptive behavior at school.

The constant phone calls to pick up King from school due to his behavior were stressful. His family turned to prescription medication to try to control the behavior but couldn’t find the right fit.

On the fifth attempt to find an effective medication, King suffered a severe allergic reaction that put him in the hospital for two weeks. His family resolved to stop seeking medication to manage his autism.

He had a “rough” year in 2020 that appeared to be improving in the spring, but about one day after King returned to class in March, schools closed due to COVID-19.

King was a homebound student before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, so his mother was advised to put him in the virtual learning program this school year, in which he could continue to stay home.

He began the school year as a virtual student at Kegotank Elementary School but recently entered the hybrid learning program at Chincoteague Elementary School. He has been attending school in person two days a week and is doing well, his mother said.

King enjoys participating in classroom activities, answering the teacher’s questions, and being with his friends. His favorite subject is math.

Katina Fosque attributes her seven-year-old son’s success in school to his increasing maturity,  the help of his special education teacher, and “a lot of breaks.”

King received a gift of $100 to spend on art supplies, presented by Althea Pittman, executive director of the Eastern Shore Center for Independent Living.

Pittman, who is blind, is an advocate for inclusive community activities. “I have a disability, but I do have the ability to interact” with others, she said.

She is a firm believer that as a citizen who pays the same taxes as everyone else, she should also have the same access to public resources.

The mission of the Eastern Shore Center for Independent Living is “to empower people with disabilities to make their own life choices and to realize their greatest potential as individuals.” It offers activities for both the old and the young, and Pittman promotes showing support for the next generation “any way you can.”

To learn more about Accomack County Parks and Recreation programs and events, call Manager Wayne Burton at 757-710-1947 or Special Events Coordinator Barbara Boggs at 757-710-9301.

For more information on the Eastern Shore Center for Independent Living, contact Executive Director Althea Pittman at 757-414-0100 or email info@vaescil.org

At Sawmill Park for the Easter Eggstravaganza, from left to right, are Wayne Burton, Kaine Fosque, Katina Fosque, King Fosque, Althea Pittman, and Alvin Bailey. The Autism Awareness banner will stay up in the park throughout April. Photo by Stefanie Jackson.