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For years, Vicki Wood has heard a "buzz in the air" from autism support groups in Lincoln.

They wanted a book club for people between the ages of 18 and 25 on the autism spectrum, said Wood, youth supervisor for Lincoln City Libraries.

And with a grant from Allstate and support from the Foundation for Lincoln City Libraries, Wood was finally able to put a plan into motion.

"We knew for a while that it was time for us to do something," Wood said. "This grant just happened at the right time for it to all fall into place."

The group's first meeting is Friday.

Wood's first call about the "Books with Friends" club was to Amy Jewell, a special education teacher at Lincoln Southwest High School, asking her to be one of the group's leaders.

"This opportunity just appealed to me right away," Jewell said. "It gives me the unique experience of combining my library science and special education master degrees."

Jewell's plan for the club is not limited to a certain agenda. Instead, she will decide what books will be read and if they will be read on an individual or group basis. Jewell already has two people signed up for the summer. She plans to limit initial participation to eight.

"I'm not sure how it will take shape," Jewell said, "and that's the way it needs to be."

She doesn't know where the reading level of the people in the group will be, so it won't be until they begin meeting that the structure of the group will be defined.

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Determining that structure, however, is very important.

Jewell said that people on the autism spectrum sometimes struggle after they reach age 21, because they no longer have the structure of a high school classroom in their daily lives.

"I've seen that my former students just miss having school and miss having that classroom environment," Jewell said. "This club isn't a classroom, but the structure will be really great."

One key element that Jewell wants to bring to the club is a sense of community. She said building relationships is an important part of teaching, starting a club and almost anything in between.

"If we build friendships, have fun and make things exciting, the club will find its identity," Jewell said.

The "Books with Friends" club will meet at 5 p.m. Fridays at the Walt Branch Library, 6701 S. 14th St. Young adults on the autism spectrum who are interested in taking part are encouraged to call 402-202-7493.


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