VINEYARD — Even though Alpine School District's autism specialist Laura Stuver died last year from cervical cancer, autism education continues to thrive in her name at Vineyard Elementary School.

Thanks to a memorial fund set up in Stuver's name — and the help of an autistic student whom Stuver taught — the Laura Stuver Autism Resource Library is being started at Vineyard, where Stuver taught an autistic kindergarten unit for 12 years.

The goal of the center is to provide information to teachers and parents of children who have been diagnosed with autism. An open house for the center is planned for 4 to 7 p.m. April 22 at Vineyard Elementary, 620 E. Holdaway Road, Vineyard.

The center takes up one wall in the school's guided-reading library room. Along with a plaque and photo of Stuver, there will be packets of information and books people can check out. Lists of community resources also will be available.

Utah has the third highest rate of autism among 14 states examined in a study published in 2007 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One in every 133 Utah children is autistic, according to the study, which also concludes that Utah's autism rate is 20 times higher than it was two decades ago.

Alpine district has felt the loss of Stuver since she died Aug. 4 at age 36.

Whenever anyone in the district had a question about autism, Stuver had the answer, said LeAnn Healey, speech therapist at Vineyard Elementary.

"It just left a big hole in the availability for people to get information on autism," Healey said.

The memorial fund for the center is being handled through the Alpine School Foundation, the nonprofit fundraising arm of the district. Healey helped initiate the fund.

Other people who are implementing the center include Stuver's parents and parents of autistic children who have attended Vineyard Elementary. Other people have donated money and books for the center.

Also helping is Garrett Yearsley, 17, a senior at Lone Peak High School. Stuver taught him in the Children's Behavioral Therapy Unit in Salt Lake City. The center is Yearsley's Eagle Scout project.

"She taught me how to communicate better. If it wasn't for Laura Stuver, I would not be speaking well at all," Yearsley told the Deseret Morning News.

Garrett's mother, Barbara Yearsley, of Cedar Hills, says she feels it's important for parents of autistic children to know where they can go to get help. "Laura (Stuver) was a huge part of our lives," she said. "Laura has helped so many children who have gone through her program."

Hours of the autism center at Vineyard Elementary, once it is implemented, will generally be 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays.

For more information, contact Healey at heal271@alpine.k12.ut.us.


E-mail: astewart@desnews.com