Autistic Students Learn Life Lessons in Their School’s Coffee Shop

A public school in New Jersey has found a creative way to help autistic students learn social skills. Thomas Macchiverna is a teacher at Woodrow Wilson Middle School who started a special class for autistic students and students with multiple learning disabilities. In this class, the students run a coffee shop every Friday morning and sell coffee, tea, and various sweets to staff members at the school.

Edward Lin is a seventh grade student who is in the class. One day, when a customer came into the coffee shop, he was reluctant to make eye contact with the customer. However, with some coaching from his teacher, he eventually does connect with the customer and ends the transaction with a smile.

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College Students Volunteer to Help Autistic Children

What do most college kids do on the weekend? At my school, a typical Friday night is composed of dinner out with your friends, a few drinks at a local bar, or maybe a trip to the movie theater to see what your favorite actors have been working on. It certainly doesn’t involve volunteering to help autistic children learn social skills and have fun.

However, that is exactly what the Friday Knights do. The Friday Knights are a group of 140 students from the College of St. Rose in Albany, New York, who volunteer their Friday evenings to play with autistic children, helping them with crafts projects, and giving the children’s parents a little time to themselves.

“I think it’s a natural passion that I have,” said Rachel, a graduate student who volunteers at Friday Knights. “I love children and children with special needs, like they’re just the kids that I’m drawn to.”

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More Mentally Disabled Students Attending College

Zach Neff is probably the friendliest guy on campus. He gives hugs and high-fives to everyone he sees. The 27-year-old with Down syndrome even tells his teachers that he loves them.high five

“I told Zach we are putting him on a hug diet – one to say hello and one to say goodbye,” said Joyce Downing, with the University of Central Missouri, who helped start a program that serves students with disabilities.

Eight years ago, it was hard to find an intellectually disabled student like Neff on a college campus. There were only four schools that allowed students with disabilities like Down syndrome and autism. Now, there are more than 250 universities in the U.S. and Canada that admit students with such disabilities. Read the rest of this entry »


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