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."