PEERS WITH PURPOSE: Jennifer Sollars Miller (far right) and Michelle Wilkerson (far left), co-founders and directors of the Autism Center of Tulsa, meet members of Peers with Purpose for a movie and dinner at Jenks Riverwalk Crossing.
The Autism Center of Tulsa is a not-for-profit organization founded in 2005 with the purpose of meeting the needs of individuals and families affected by autism and related neurological disorders in order to improve their quality of life.
The organization provides various programs, including early screening and intervention, community awareness events, family support sessions, and on-site resources.
In 2011, the Autism Center launched Peers with Purpose at Jenks Middle School. This peer partnership program provides aid to students in need of social support and encourages compassion and understanding in the general student population.
A Peer with Purpose is a student who excels socially and shows compassion toward others. Peers are trained in order to aide students with disabilities needing social assistance in areas ranging from lunch buddies to notifying teachers of situations in which the student has become a target of bullying.
Currently, more than 50 students are enrolled in the program at Jenks Middle School.
Autism is a complex neurobiological disorder that affects a person’s ability to communicate and relate to other people. It is this difficulty with social relationships that is at the core of autism.
Children with disabilities often need more support than just academic. Socially, they begin to stand out early in elementary school and as they age, the gap continues to widen. Often, this leads to bullying and/or isolation.