The Gift of Friendship

December 23, 2011
Chelsea Budde

I had the kind of conversation last week with a mom that throws me into fits of hate and hope. She told me a sad but familiar story of a misunderstood boy who spends his recess pacing the playground perimeter because he and his peers just haven't figured out how to have successful social interactions. And without intervention, they won't.

No one "just knows" how to interact appropriately with someone with autism. Certainly, there are those with a sensitivity and compassion that encourage them to continue trying in spite of pratfalls, but unless you have an understanding of that differently-wired brain and how it impacts the way that person experiences the world around them, you will struggle.

And children with autism can't be expected to be socially graceful.  A hallmark of their disability is lack of social understanding, so how can we as parents and teachers expect them to generalize to the playground skills taught in a speech therapist's office without coaching?

And this mom told me about how this boy was trying to initiate social interaction by hugging, which he was told specifically was unacceptable.  The poor child.  So while I hate that this downtrodden boy is despairing of his young life because he can't find a way to fit in, I have hope.  My hope springs from the results we've seen from our staff and student services.  I know that we can go into that school and work with its community to create a culture of acceptance, where glimmers of understanding and empathy shine more brightly than the darkness of despair.

But we can't do that without your help.  Please consider giving a year-end gift to Good Friend, Inc.  Your donation of $10 pays for us to send a Presentation Kit loaded with helpful resources for educators and families to the school that invites us.  A $25 donation pays for gel bracelets and personalized certificates for a classroom of students who learn to be good friends.  Only $50 covers the expenses associated with a guest lecture, where upwards of 100 college students at a time learn about best practices associated with interacting with people with autism.  And a $100 donation allows us to go to a school and provide an hour-long staff in-service. 

You can donate online through our website (right-click on the Donate button to open a new PayPal checkout window) or Cause.  Checks can be made payable to Good Friend, Inc. and mailed to 808 Cavalier Dr., Waukesha WI 53186.  Donations are tax-deductible to the extent provided by law, and should be postmarked by December 31st for this year's application.

Thank you for your generous support of our mission!

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