Tempe High School special education teacher Jennifer Laurence wanted to give her students an opportunty to make friends and develop a social life, so she arranged for a program to have students receive training for interacting with autistic peers.
Laurence acted along with Speech and Language Therapist Sandra Goodman to start Students Helping Access Doors Educationally and Socially (SHADES), which focused on helping students with autism interact socially outside the the classroom.
Students are trained by SHADES how to interact with autistic teens. They mentor students with autism, allowing them to practice social interactions.
This year SHADES mentor Brenda Sanchez was recognized as a Tempe Top Student. She says she has seen progress in the mentees.
“There was a student named Jesus, and when we came in, he would just observe us. He would just stand in the corner quietly. We would want him to engage with us, but he wouldn’t,” Sanchez said. “As the days went by, he started sitting with us. He just wanted to say all that was in his mind!”