Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Joy of Toys

With Earth Day coming up on April 22, teen-founded Second Chance Toys has again launched a used toy drive for kids in need. Bring fully functional plastic toys to one of their dropoff locations in New York, New Jersey, Philly or Chicago. Join a cause that has saved more than 65,000 toys from landfills & sweetened kids' lives with new-to-them playthings.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Change It Up

Coin drives are such a simple, tangible way for kids to help other kids, demonstrating how small gestures can add up to something much bigger. Seattle's Wellspring Family Services -- which addresses the interlocking issues of mental health challenges, domestic violence, and homelessness -- is offering area kids a chance to create change by collecting change. Wellspring's Kids Helping Kids coin drive runs through September 1, 2011, and even gives entrants a chance to win their own original song by acclaimed kids' artist Caspar Babypants -- aka Chris Ballew of The Presidents of the United States of America.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Helping Out, Hanging Out

Greeting friends in the hall: A minor matter for most teens, but for those with autism and other disabilities that affect social interaction, it can take practice. And who better to practice with than typical peers? Adults "don't have the same know-how or the insider information" as peers, said speech-language pathologist Christopher Spiel of the Peer Communication Group he started two years ago at Plainfield East High School in Illinois.

Teacher-recommended students who have a solid academic record and are known as good role models can trade study hall time for a chance to work with their special-needs peers twice a week, facilitated by Spiel and a social worker. Volunteers go through a two-hour training, and the group focuses on trust and relationship building before tackling specific skills. "Special education students [are] self-conscious and ... don't like to show their weakness," Spiel told Plainfield Patch. "We spend a lot of time to develop trust."

Once a month, the students kick back together at Hang Time Club, which Spiel personally funds to give the special-education students a chance to snack, play games, and just enjoy people outside of their families.

A comment from peer helper Myles Walters is filled with the kind of natural sensitivity and respect that teens can bring to their peers with challenges: "I understand these kids are just like us, but they may not know these things."

The benefits go both ways. "We are all clicking." Walters added. "It's a joyful time."