Authors of autism book to speak at HHH

Published 9:50 am Friday, October 10, 2014

Schools leaders to share about Peer Power Partners at Monday event

As Austin Public Schools expands the Peer Power Partners to Ellis Middle School, educators are looking help the public learn more about the program.

Tara Tuchel and Jaimie Lowell, who co-wrote a children’s book about autism called “My Best Friend Will,” plan to speak at a community presentation from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Monday, Oct. 13, at the Hormel Historic Home.

In addition, Lowell, now a college student, will also present her story of participating in Integrated Play Groups with her friend with autism and how it has changed her life.

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Community members are invited to gain understanding of autism and other disabilities that affect social communication, learn about how students with a social communication deficit struggle to understand literal language, and gain insight into how the community can support individuals and families who have children with disabilities.

Peer Power Partners, which started at I.J. Holton Intermediate Schools, is expanding after a successful first year. The program pairs youth with special needs and same-aged peers to promote friendships, understanding and advocacy. It is a collaborative of the Parenting Resource Center, Austin Public Schools and Vision 2020 Community Pride and Spirit, and is funded by the Hormel Foundation, Austin Public Education Foundation and private donations.

“It’s a good way for us to include all of our students, give them another activity to get them involved in,” Ellis Principal Jason Senne said.

In 2013-2014, Peer Power Partners served 60 students at I.J. Holton Intermediate School. For 2014-2015, it will expand to serve 100 students at I.J. Holton and 50 students at Ellis.

“It’s something that we look forward to working with the coordinators and it is something that is going be beneficial to all our kids,” Senne said. “While it starts as a small group it’ll have a large impact on our building.”

Senne hopes the students will gain a better awareness of differences, regardless of what they are.

Tuchel, a speech/language pathologist from Hudson, Wisconsin, will conduct training with students and staff at Ellis Middle School and at I.J. Holton Intermediate School. Tuchel specializes in autism spectrum disorders. In 2006, Tuchel collaborated with then-fifth grader Jaimie Lowell to write a children’s book about autism called, “My Best Friend Will.”