- Associated Press - Sunday, April 18, 2021

OWENSBORO, Ky. (AP) - Puzzle Pieces Executive Director Amanda Owen and Public Relations Director Ashley Wedding have partnered to create a book series that will help children communicate and interact with individuals around them who have disabilities.

“Owen the Wonderer and the New Kid in Class,” which was released on World Down Syndrome Day on March 21, is centered around a young boy named Owen and his curiosity about McKenzie, who is a new student with Down syndrome.

Amanda Owen said the book will help children learn how to ask the right questions and interact with others around them who have disabilities.

“One of the things that I’ve always said, and I discovered this even with children - it’s not that we, as individuals, don’t want to include or interact with those with disabilities. I think it comes down to we don’t know how,” she said. “That was kind of the direction and storyline of this book, is that the main character, Owen, becomes that curious person that asks those questions that probably everybody has but don’t feel comfortable asking.”

Through Owen’s questions in the book, Amanda Owen said children can not only learn how to interact with and include other children with disabilities, but also understand the targeted disability in the book as well.

“Our goal is that when families are reading this to their children or teachers are reading this to their children, it starts the communication,” she said.

Wedding said the book also includes guided questions at the end for parents or teachers to ask children, such as whether they have anyone different from them in their class and how they could include them, and how to connect with others different from themselves.

The main character in the book, Owen, is named after Amanda Owen and inspired by Wedding’s son. McKenzie is inspired by a Puzzle Pieces client, McKenzie White, who has been at Puzzle Pieces since a young age.

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