Through this program our mentors get the opportunity to learn from the kids. The kids are so knowledgeable and persevered through learning this challenging skill.
We have one child that is learning to thrive with autism. Many daily tasks can be very challenging for this child. Just getting into the room where the other boys were already getting to work on their project presented a challenge. His mentor and mother talked and encouraged him to come into the building from the parking lot for about half an hour.
He eventually came into the room, but stopped in the door frame. His mentor and mom continued to be encouraging but gave him the space he needed to become comfortable. He expressed the desire to participate however struggled with the social setting. His mentor set up a small table in the corner of the room, they sat together with their backs to the group, working and talking about the project. He did not want to follow the very detailed instructions of the project. However, it was fascinating to witness this boy experiment and complete the project through trial and error.
The project was not an exact match to the others but he was able to get the working components operating in the same fashion. It was just incredible. This was a success!
Our cooking classes are so fun. Kids and mentors have such a great time together and they have such great conversations while mixing and chopping. Several of our mentors were chatting about their grandchildren and what name their grandchildren for their grandparents.
One young girl joined in and said to her mentor, “We need another name for you for me.”
The mentor responded saying that they were good friends.
“You are more than a friend to me, we need a better word,” the girl replied.
They spent the next several minutes trying to find the right word to describe their relationship. This sweet little conversation really encapsulates the relationships between our mentors and youth. They are more than friends, they become family.
On an outing with several of our teens it quickly became evident that some of our teens continue to struggle socially. Some would say that these teens are not having success. I would challenge that way of thinking.
Though not readily accepted and conformed to what is comfortable to most of us. This teen was able to practice his social skills in a setting with caring and kind adults. These adults modeled not only for this teen, but for the other teens how to respond to some
one or something that makes us feel a little uncomfortable.
Circle of Friends creates that safe place for youth to learn, practice and experiment with their social skills. We ask our teen to become Junior Mentors for our younger children. This continues to build confidence and practice for our teens.
Many conversations happen in the car. On a trip to the bowling alley with several youth. One of the youth began sharing that he was struggling with a bully.
The youth said that he was being picked on during his time on the bus to and from school. He had reacted to this bully and as a result he was kicked off the bus. He continued saying that he had earned a bike and that he thought he would ride his bike to school even though he was now able to ride the bus again. He said that he did not want to burden with driving him to school every day.