Though the focus for Hillsborough teacher Viktoria Wargo was promoting autism awareness during Hillsborough’s annual April programs, there was a second driving force behind the book she wrote for this year’s events.
“Last year, we had written the song “Walk With Me”, so I said we have to do something bigger and better next year,” Wargo, who teaches the district’s autistic elementary school students, said. “Let’s write a book.”
The book’s premier marked part of Triangle Elementary School’s Autism Awareness month activities last Thursday, when the school gathered to listen to the fourth graders read it aloud.
The book involves an elementary school teacher whose students are learning about autism awareness and culminates with them visiting the school’s autistic class, Wargo said.
“They learn about how they can walk with these kids,” she said. “They learn about why there are different and to understand what is it to be an autistic kid.”
The most important lessons students and teachers can draw from the book is acceptance and awareness, she said.
Writing the story began almost immediately after last year’s awareness activities, with Wargo fleshing out the story concept and plot points.
Armed with the concept, Wargo approached Woodfern Elementary School second grade teacher Joe Dugan about illustrating the book, she said.
“I don’t think he though I was serious until I showed him the manuscript over the summer,” Wargo said.
Once illustrated, Dugan suggested leaving the drawings black and white and having students color the designs, Wargo said.
The book is available to all Hillsborough schools, though Wargo was not certain whether other schools would have a school-wide assembly on the book. The book is designed to inspire multiple lessons on autism, meaning teachers can use it to discuss the many types of situations autistic children face.
“I really wanted teachers to have something they could read to the their students in the class room,” Wargo said. “But this is not a book they are going to read in one day and stop. I think it’s really important to hold your students to a high caliber.”
The school will host several additional activities throughout April, culminating in an April 28 Walk-a-Thon and aerial photo of the school.
Then, it’s back to the drawing board—and figuring out how to top this year’s activities.
Editor's Note: Those interested in the book can contact the author, Triangle Elementary School Special Education teacher Viktoria Wargo, at email@example.com