Puzzle Piece Goes to Rainbow School is written and illustrated by Tanis and Allison Frohriep, a mother and daughter team. They wrote this adorable autism book for kids to foster understanding, awareness and acceptance of autistic children hoping they can become friends at school and in the community.
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 along with her mom. We are looking forward to her advice on how to be a good friend and sister to two siblings with special needs.
Questions for Tanis, Sibling of Autistic Child
Lorna: Congratulations for your book, Puzzle Piece Goes to Rainbow School. When you look back to third grade when you were writing this book, what stands out as the best part about this whole project and why is it the best part? Is it the writing, doing the illustrations, seeing the finished book for the first time, hearing comments about your book, …?
<< Tanis Frohriep: The best part of writing Puzzle Piece Goes to Rainbow School was being able to make Puzzle Piece do the exact things my brother does. Puzzle Piece is just like Roman.
Lorna: Tell us about your brother, Roman. In your “Note for Kids” at the end of the book, you say, “Just because Roman is different does not mean he is not smart.” Please tell us some ways Roman is different than other kids his age. Also explain some things Roman can do better than most kids.
<< Tanis Frohriep: Roman is different because he is not at age level for talking and he needs help in his academic work. Roman is the same as other kids because he likes to play, run around, and kick soccer balls just like other kids his age. He is more respectful to other people than other kids his age because he always says “hi”, “bye”, “thank you” and “please” the best he can because his words sound different than other people’s.
Lorna: What is your advice on how to become friends with an autistic classmate and how to be a good friend to this person throughout the year?
<< Tanis Frohriep: Just listen to their body language, because if they can’t talk, their body language is how they talk a lot of the time and treat them like other kids and talk to them about their interests because they are typically very interested in certain things.
Pages from Puzzle Piece Goes to Rainbow School
Questions for Allison Mom of Three – Roman Who Is Autistic and Tycen Who Is Physically Disabled:
Lorna: How old is Roman now? What support and services does he need? Is he having a good school year?
<< Allison Frohriep: Roman is nine and in the third grade. He is fully mainstreamed, but does have a special education teacher and a paraprofessional in the room with him. His school, Westwood Elementary, also has a peer to peer program called Peers Of Westwood, or POW, where kids sign up to help Roman and other special needs kids throughout the day. He is having a great school year with all this support!
Lorna: You have three children. What advice can you give to other parents on how they can make sure a sibling of a child with special needs does not feel they are not getting their share of the parents’ time?
<< Allison Frohriep: Tanis will tell you Roman and his brother Tycen, who is physically disabled, get “more attention than she does” (in her words), but she tells me this is ok, because I know her interests and do things with her to support those. For example, Tanis has a soft spot for cats, so we are known to volunteer at the shelter to give cats attention they crave. It is also important to support their school and extracurricular activities.
Lorna: We often hear that children with special needs are often the victims of bullying. What are ways parents can help prevent this from happening?
<< Allison Frohriep: Peer to peer programs at school are so important to prevent bullying. The POW program at Roman’s school teaches kids to accept differences and roll with them while advocating to others to treat Roman kindly. If your child’s school does not have a peer to peer program, I would highly suggest researching programs in similar schools and presenting that to the administration.
<< Allison Frohriep: Not to sound repetitive, but if a community in general requested a special education peer to peer program, the school will be more likely to institute it. Just the other day, a couple of Roman’s schoolmates stopped over to ask if he could come out to play. I almost cried tears of happiness. That’s the best thing parents can do, encourage their own children to include those with special needs. Another cause I firmly believe in is the campaign to “End the R-word”. Something anyone can do is to listen and inform that the R-word is hurtful and wrong to use.
Lorna: Allison and Tanis, thank you so much for your guest post and now for making the time for this interview.
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