Peer Power Partners hosted California author for kick off
Published 10:47 am Friday, October 23, 2015
Peer Power Partners mentoring program expanded to Austin High School this year, and the program kicked off with two speakers from California earlier this week.
Brent Anderson and his mother, Linda Anderson, co-authors of “Unintentional Humor: Celebrating the Literal Mind,” talked with students in the Peer Power Partners program on Monday and Tuesday. They also spoke with community members Tuesday evening.
“I hope the students [learned] everybody thinks differently,” Brent said. “They don’t all think the same.”
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Peer Power Partners pairs youth with special needs and same-aged peers to promote friendships, understanding and advocacy. Started in 2013, Peer Power Partners directly served 150 students last year at I.J. Holton Intermediate School and Ellis Middle School. This fall, Peer Power Partners expanded to Austin High School and got another 30 students involved in the program, making for a total of 180 students in the program for the 2015-16 school year.
Linda hoped the students learned that everyone is different, regardless of if they have a disability or not.
“I hope that they learned to be openminded about realizing that you aren’t defined by your abilities or disabilities,” she said. “You’re defined on terms of who you are.”
Brent, 29, gave presentations and trainings for students and staff at I.J. Holton, Ellis and AHS, and he gave a presentation for the community at the Hormel Historic Home. A nationally known speaker, Brent is an adult with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Together with educators, speech pathologists and a cartoonist, he co-authored “Unintentional Humor: Celebrating the Literal Mind.”
“It’s a really nice message of hope and humor and how humor is the universal human bond,” Linda said. “That regardless of your abilities or sociobiological background or anything, you can always bond over humor.”
“It shows all the stories of how he takes language very literally,” she added.
An entrepreneur, Brent studied at Pikes Peak Community College and lives independently in Southern California. Brent explained the challenges of his “literal mind” with humor and inspiration. He hoped audience members gained understanding of communication challenges for individuals with disabilities, learned about the importance of visual teaching and discovered the value of humor for improving health, social relationships and personal connections. Linda said organizers contacted them to come speak with the students, and said the students seemed to really connect with Brent.
“I think it’s a really good message for the students to hear it from someone young,” she said.
“They were able to really see someone that has a diagnosis of autism, but he’s really fun and cool,” she added. “They could really relate to him, he’s very real to them.”
Peer Power Partners is a collaboration by the Parenting Resource Center, Austin Public Schools and Vision 2020 Community Pride and Spirit. It is funded by the Hormel Foundation, Austin Public Education Foundation and private donations. For more information about Brent and Linda, visit www.unintentionalhumor.com.