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Aidan Mott,9, uses an augmentative communication device to help his classmates tell a Christmas story during a special celebration at the Birchtree Center in Newington on Friday. (Courtesy)

Finding a child's strength makes for a show of talents in Newington

NEWINGTON - Mother Dana Read had never attended a talent show or concert at her sons' schools.

Her two sons, Liam, 11, and Owen, 9, both have autism and while attending more typical public schools did not have roles in such activities, she said.

Seeing her sons participate in a talent show at the Birchtree Center on Friday, showing off their individual strengths, was the best Christmas present she could receive.

Her sons began attending the nonprofit school for students with severe autism in February and March.

On Friday, while the school celebrated the holidays, it celebrated its 10th anniversary.

They started with four students in a small space in Portsmouth and have grown to accommodate 34 students in a much larger facility in Newington.

During the celebration, students sang songs, told stories using assistive devices, put up decorations and delivered a cake for everyone to enjoy.

"This is great because they took, not just my kids, but all the kids' strengths and gave them a role," Dana Read said. "It is nice for them to participate and succeed because they are doing the things they can do."

Read said it was also nice to be able to just sit back and enjoy the performance.

"Usually I have to be my child's support, but Birchtree does it for us so we can enjoy this in the way other parents get to enjoy their children's performances," Read said.

Sandra Peirce-Jordan, executive director at Birchtree, said her staff came up with the idea of the winter celebration/birthday party.

"It really was just a staff decision to come together and celebrate 10 years of Birchtree and the season in a way that works for our families," Peirce-Jordan said.

Read said in Birchtree she finally found a place where her children can thrive.

"They are not trying to stick a round peg into a square hole. It is a perfect fit and I think today is a perfect example of that," Read said.

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