"Because of autism, the thief of politeness and friendship, I have no sounding voice. By typing words I can play with my life and stretch from my world to yours." -Sarah Stup
Sarah Stup, born in Frederick, Maryland, in 1983, was diagnosed as autistic at an early age. Stup’s disability is considered significant; she does not speak and has limited motor skills. At age 8, she began writing by pointing to letters on an alphabet sheet to spell out words. She now uses a variety of typing devices to converse and work. Stup's writing skills were further developed during a writing internship at the Arc of Frederick County (Maryland), while she was in her final year of high school.
Currently, Stup has published two books: Do-si-Do with Autism (for children); and Are Your Eyes Listening? Collected Works (for adults). Stup is now at work on her third book, Paul and His Beast, which is for middle school-aged children.
Stup has also launched "Sarah's Keepsake Collection" of gift booklets. The collection includes Heart and Spirit: Words to comfort, inspire and share, and Nest Feathers: A celebration of family, home, and memories shared. Although Stup's books deal with the experience of autism, each also touches on universal themes like love, personal meaning and the need to belong.
Stup has been featured on TV and DVDs, in The Baltimore Sun, the Frederick News-Post, Baltimore’s Child and Exceptional Parent magazine. Features about Stup have also appeared throughout the Web and in publications for advocacy groups like the Autism Society of America.
Today, from her hometown of Frederick, Maryland, Stup devotes her time to writing and advocating for people with disabilities. Her mission is to sensitize lawmakers, educators and the community at large to the barriers that those with disabilities face in gaining acceptance.
In 2004, Stup participated in the self-advocacy group Working Together and The Arc of Frederick County Legislative Committee's letter-writing campaign. The campaign aimed to educate lawmakers on legislative decisions that would impact the lives of people with developmental disabilities and their families. Stup traveled to Maryland’s State Capital in Annapolis to give testimony opposing House Bill #475. The bill would have promoted the use of institutional respite care and services for people with medical needs, rather than providing services in their own communities. Stup testified before a conference room packed with delegates and concerned citizens from around the state.
"Those with developmental disabilities and other differences are real people inside bodies that work differently. We are worth knowing." -Sarah Stup
Additionally in 2004, Stup received both the Self Advocate of the Year award from The Arc of Maryland and the Frances and Lease Bussard Award for Self-Advocacy.
Stup has also created "Hope's Ingredients," an interactive training tool to support transitioning students and other self-advocates by identifying and following their dreams. Her co-creator was Aaron Stephens, her mentor at The Arc of Frederick County, Maryland. "Hope's Ingredients" has since been used at self-advocacy events, public schools, colleges, individual planning meetings and at conferences designed to create the leaders of tomorrow.Do-si-Do with Autism (2006)
Are Your Eyes Listening? Collected Works (2007)
Heart and Spirit: Words to comfort, share and inspire (2008)
Nest Feathers: A celebration of family, home and memories shared (2009)
Do-si-Do with Autism Friendship Kit (2014)
Paul and His Beast (2015)
Do-si-Do with Autism
Do-si-Do with Autism is Stup's first published work and her first children's book. Stup first envisioned the book when she was 10 years old. The book, acclaimed by teachers as well as parents, offers an entertaining and thoughtful way to introduce children to the importance and joy of building meaningful relationships with those who have autism and other developmental disabilities.1
The story revolves around Taylor, the turtle with autism, who sheds light on what it is like to feel pain from the overwhelming movements and sounds around him. His feelings are especially pronounced on square dance day at school. Filled with dread, he retreats to the sidelines and finds solace in his beloved books. To his surprise, however, his classmates follow his lead and, in doing so, begin to focus less on their differences and more on all they have in common.
A Taylor the Turtle Fun Pack DVD, which includes the Do-si-Do with Autism book and related disability awareness and teaching activities, is being produced.
Do-si-Do with Autism was funded by the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council, The Arc of Carroll County, the Maryland State Department of Education Division of Rehabilitation Services and The Arc of Frederick County. The book’s illustrators were students Matthew Starchak and Libby Sanders of Stevenson Universityin Maryland (formerly Villa Julie College).
Do-si-Do with Autism debuted at the exhibit “Ramps Over Fear” at Stevenson University in 2006. More than 500 people attended the event, which featured Stup’s writings, illustrations from the book and photos taken of her by Johnny Martyr. Kevin Walla, who was then Stup’s job coach, organized the event.
Are Your Eyes Listening? Collected Works
Are Your Eyes Listening? Collected Works is Stup’s critically acclaimed collection of poetry, essays and reflections. Stup takes readers inside her world to experience the sights, sounds and feel of autism. Her vivid imagery and wrenching language reveals "the beast" (autism) but also the special gifts it imparts, gifts that she says make her the unique person she is.
The book is about more than autism, however. Ultimately, it is a book about life. Stup touches on a wide range of topics: from family to oceans, coffee to snowflakes, writing to love, personal meaning to the need to belong.
Beth Mende Conny, founder of WriteDirections.com, served as consultant on the book. The book’s cover was designed by Emily Dorr of Jean Peterson Design of Frederick, Maryland, won a gold ADDY from the Greater Frederick Advertising Federation. The photograph used in the design was provided by Johnny Martyr, a film photographer also based in Frederick, Maryland.
Sarah’s Keepsake Collection
Stup also has written a thematic series of booklets that include poetry, reflections and quotations. Sarah’s Keepsake Collection includes the booklets Heart & Spirit: Words to comfort, inspire and share and Nest Feathers: A celebration of family, home and memories shared.
Do-si-Do with Autism Friendship Kit
The Do-si-Do with Autism Friendship Kit offers an inventive and exciting approach to building meaningful relationships between children with and without autism. While most disability awareness materials for children focus on ways to include a child with autism into our world, the Do-si-Do with Autism Friendship Kit takes a new approach: it draws children into the world of Taylor the Turtle with autism, and promotes understanding and acceptance. Use this Kit for one neighborhood child or for a whole disability awareness unit at school. You'll learn too!
Included is the book Do-si-Do with Autism in DVD, PDF, MP3 and stageplay formats; the Presenters guide for parents, advocacy groups, school staff, teens - anyone building accepting communities; child-friendly scripts and ready-to-go lessons plans; K-2 Common Core Standards Alignment Guide; a Tool Kit with disability awareness activities for individuals and groups; a Fun Pack with dozens and dozens of games, puzzles and skills-based fun sheets; downloadable rewards, certificates and gifts for children and adults; and as a Bonus, an inside view of autism via the video "Are your eyes listening?"
Paul and His Beast
Sixth-grader Paul Stephens, desperate to stay in a normal school, must tame his “Beast”— the bizarre autistic behaviors that make other students recoil and mock. But how can he tame his Beast when it protects him from a world where looking into another face can send his head spinning, voices crash into his ears like a bombardment, and trying to respond to the simplest question can lock up his limbs? Sometimes the Beast is his only refuge.
In his struggle, Paul learns to deal with a boy even more autistic than he is, to function as a successful part of an academic team of “normals,” and to speak up for the Beast because he has learned that it means speaking up for himself.
Sarah’s latest release is a middle grade novel, but of general interest to anyone who wishes to gain understanding into the world of autism: family, educators and advocates.
Included for parents, educators and advocates is a Reader's Guide and group activities to spur conversation about new approaches to community inclusion and acceptance. The Common Core Standards-aligned Teacher's Guide is a free download at SarahStup.com.