Public libraries or school and family book shelves always have a spot for another autism book for kids. Teachers, parents, and other caregivers know that once children understand why a friend or classmate acts differently they will try to be better friends. Puzzle Piece Goes to Rainbow School by Tanis and Allison Frohriep is a resource that can be used to explain to children we are not all alike and that is perfectly OK. Understanding fosters awareness and acceptance.
Puzzle Piece Goes to Rainbow School is written and illustrated by a mother and daughter team. What is remarkable is that Tanis was only in third grade when she wrote the book and made the first drafts of the illustrations. Now Tanis is a middle-schooler and she has agreed to take part in our Author Interview Series. We are looking forward to her advice on how to be a good friend and sister to two siblings with special needs.
What is being said about Puzzle Piece Goes to Rainbow School
“Every school library and kindergarten through 2nd grade classrooms should have a copy of this book; teachers this can be a great aide for you. It has a gentle way of acclimating children to be helpful to autistic children and children with disabilities. I will have a printed and digital copy in my home for my children, grandchildren, and friends to browse.” ~ annn
“I bought this book to donate to my son’s school library and was not disappointed! My son and I both loved that it was written by a girl his own age and about her own real-life experiences with a brother with autism. It’s a wonderful discussion starter for kids in preschool-elementary school about having a child in the class who is different (with autism or any other different-ability) and I especially liked the talking points at the end of the book. The story itself doesn’t give the children solutions about how to be friends with someone who is different… it simply helps them to understand that people who are different would like friends, too, and then the teacher/parent can talk with the child(ren) about how the kids in the story could have been a good friend to Puzzle Piece, and how they themselves can be a good friend to someone in their own life who is different. Well done, Tanis and Allison!” ~ D. Richmond
A great feature in this book, are the notes at the end of the book to children and to parents and teachers. They make great conversation starters about autism and the many autistic individuals we meet at schools and in our communities. The following is Allison Frohriep’s note for parents and teachers:
“Talking to children about autism can sometimes feel like a daunting task. Puzzle Piece Goes to Rainbow School opens the door to a healthy conversation about autism and differences in general with young children. This book was written to fill a need in introducing autism to young children. Please use this story to open an honest, two-way conversation with your child or classroom.
Children with autism are just as diverse as those without. There is no one definitive trait all autistics share but we have tried to include some of the ones that are most common so children can identify Puzzle Piece with someone in their own lives.
Just like Puzzle Piece had his place, there is a place for every person with autism. As parents and teachers, your job is to help those without autism accept that reality and if you are close to a child with autism, your job becomes even more critical; helping that child reach his or her potential to find their place in the rainbow we call society.”
Guest Post by Tanis and Allison Frohriep
Puzzle Piece Goes to Rainbow School
Description of the book:
Puzzle Piece is just starting Rainbow School, where the shapes learn to make a beautiful Rainbow. But, Puzzle Piece is “different”. He doesn’t act like the other students. He eats a different lunch than other students. He can’t make words come out of his mouth. The other students, Triangle, Circle, and Rhombus don’t act like Puzzle Piece and they don’t know how to be friends with him. At the end of the year, the students are making the rainbow and Puzzle Piece still feels like there is no place for him. Will he ever find his place in the rainbow?
At the conclusion of the story, readers will find a special note from Tanis directly to the children who read or listen to the story, explaining that those with autism all have a place and how it is perfectly ok to be friends with those children.
Allison also wrote a note for parents and teachers with talking points and instructional activities to further teach the lesson of acceptance.
Reason the author wrote it:
Tanis’s brother and Allison’s youngest son, Roman, has autism. Because of his autism, just like Puzzle Piece, he doesn’t act like the other students at school. We felt it was important to tell everyone that people with autism and other differences have a place in this world.
Puzzle Piece Goes to Rainbow School is written for the Kindergarten – Third grade audience to build a greater acceptance for Roman and other classmates with differences.
*Excerpts from Puzzle Piece Goes to Rainbow School
“At story time, Puzzle Piece gets excited and spins around and flaps his hands. He is different because no one else spins and flaps.”
“Puzzle Piece wants to ask them to play with him, but his mouth will not make words.”
Just for kids from Tanis:
Hi kids! I am Tanis and my brother Roman has autism, a lot like Puzzle Piece. Just because Roman is different does not mean he is not smart. Sometimes, people with autism are smarter than they have to be. Roman is just like you. He likes to play just like you. Sometimes you cannot even tell kids have autism. Your best friend may have autism but you cannot tell. I know autistic people are different but that does not mean they cannot be your friend. They might be by themselves sometimes. Just ask them if they want to play with you. You might not always get a yes or no. Remember everyone can fit in somewhere!
Talking points and instructional activities:
Like Puzzle Piece, many people with autism have sensory issues. Ask children what they think it would be like to see the sun even brighter than it is on sunny days or to hear every voice as a shout. Sometimes, senses are muted instead of heightened. Have children cover their ears while you talk and explain that for some people with autism, this is how the world sounds. Then, have them cup their hands around their ears while you speak loudly. This is how the world sounds to others with autism.
The world is full of voices. We use our voices to get what we want and need. Ask children how they would get what they need without using words, just like many with autism have to do hundreds of times a day. For an example, choose a child and give him or her a simple need, like “I need a drink” or “I need a blue crayon”. Whisper it in their ear and then have them communicate that need without using words. Make sure everyone knows that someone has thousands of needs a day that they have to communicate without using words.
Talk about Circle, Triangle, and Rhombus. They are not mean children, they just don’t know how to play with Puzzle Piece. What are some ways they could have involved Puzzle Piece? How could they have been friends to Puzzle Piece? Maybe he could have used a push on the swing. They could have invited him to their table at lunch. See what other ways the children can come up with on how to involve Puzzle Piece. Chances are they have great ideas.
Pages from Puzzle Piece Goes to Rainbow School
About the Authors and Illustrators:
Tanis Frohriep is a sixth grader in middle school in Michigan. She is very active in cheerleading and being an awesome sister to two brothers with special needs. She came up with the idea for “Puzzle Piece Goes to Rainbow School” after deciding to become an author like her mother. She wanted to write a book about accepting those with autism, and wrote the first version of the story of Puzzle Piece and the beautiful Rainbow.
Allison Frohriep is Tanis, Tycen and Roman’s mom. She is also the author of “Schriener Road” and “Pitch Spin”. She is very proud of her daughter for coming up with the idea and most of the words in “Puzzle Piece Goes to Rainbow School” as well as the first version of the illustrations. She edited the original story and drew the final illustrations for the book.
Follow Allison Frohriep: