Credit: Kidsday staff artist / Maven Martin, Wheatley Heights

SOAR (Support Our Autism Rainbow) is a program in the Half Hollow Hills School District that spreads awareness about students with autism in our schools. SOAR educates the peers about the disabilities our classmates have and how to respect their differences. The peers, in turn, teach social skills and act as role models. In this way, students form friendships and attain a better understanding of our community.

I have gained a lot from being a part of SOAR. I’ve learned about patience, communication and responsibility. Since I am actively leading my peers, I must show appropriate behavior and good character. I’ve made many new friends in a community I probably wouldn’t have otherwise. I’ve colored with Hunter, played hand games with Chris and bowled with Bella. I couldn’t be happier to have such incredible memories with my friends.

While SOAR has made a lasting impact on me, I know I’ve contributed to the lives of my peers as well. I’ve worked with Jeffrey on his verbal communication — though he can only speak few words, he’s not entirely dependent on his iPad for speech. Emily and I practice keeping our hands to ourselves.

I know that while playing games and hanging out with my classmates may seem normal to me, my SOAR friends don’t often have the ability to do that. I understand the challenges these kids face at school every day. I’m happy to know they have people to say hi to in the hallways.

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