Amiya Stone, a student in Hillsborough County Public Schools’ Hospital Homebound and Home-based Program, recently connected in person with students at Boyette Springs Elementary over a novel study of ‘Out of My Mind’ by Sharon M. Draper.

On a spring day in April, a merging of fiction and real life played out at Boyette Springs Elementary School. Amiya Stone, a fourth grader in Hillsborough County Public Schools’ Hospital Homebound and Home-based Program, visited a classroom of students at Boyette Springs. The visit was more than a field trip; it was the beginning of friendships.

The newly found friendships are a result of a beautiful turn of events. Amiya and her teacher, Tara Horn, were reading Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper. Horn’s friend, Amanda Allen, an ESE (exceptional student education) specialist at Boyette Springs, recognized an opportunity of connection. The students within Boyette Springs’ Center for Gifted Studies were doing a novel study on Out of My Mind — the same book Amiya was reading. Boyette’s Center for Gifted Studies, led by teachers Velena Hartwell and Christine Schreck, focuses on skills students can use in the long-term, including valuing the strengths of others.

Amiya is a brilliant fourth grader. Her visit to Boyette Springs was her first time in a school setting. Amiya has spinal muscular atrophy. She uses a wheelchair for mobility and communicates using a speech-generating device that is activated by signals she sends with her eyes. The eye gaze technology of Tobii Dynavox gives her the ability to interact with others.

Amiya loves science. She likes pink and purple. She loves getting her nails done but she does not like country music. On April 26, she talked with kids at school about her likes and dislikes.

“Amiya got to broaden her experiences but so did those students,” Horn said.

Amiya’s mom, Kristina Arvidson, was thrilled with the warm welcome Amiya had at Boyette Springs.

“I love talking about Amiya and educating others and anything that pertains to normalizing her lifestyle. She wanted to see the science labs. After we saw everybody, they took us on a tour of some of the science classrooms. I was so excited for her.” Arvidson said.

Hartwell said it was an incredibly powerful experience for her students.

“They were amazed that technology allowed Amiya to communicate using her eyes and she was able to ask questions of them also. They developed such a strong sense of friendship in that short visit that they wanted to include her in our weekly activities,” Hartwell said.

Draper emailed her delight hearing about Amiya’s visit to school.

“This is absolutely wonderful. Real life and fiction meeting and merging. I’m so glad that Out of My Mind had a positive impact,” Draper said.

To learn more about Hillsborough County Public Schools’s Hospital Homebound and Home-based Program, visit To read a summary of Out of My Mind or buy it, visit

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