That’s What Friends are For

That’s What Friends are For

by Susan Neuhalfen

It’s one thing to be the new kid in school, trying to meet people and fit into your new environment. It’s another thing to be at a disadvantage socially and trying to connect with your fellow classmates.

Ashley Davis, Lake Dallas High School Class of 2010, has a passion for kids with disabilities. After being a part of Circle of Friends at Marcus High School, she better understood the challenges that kids with special needs face in high school, or any school. So she started a club at LDHS called Falcon Friends.

Falcon Friends is a social mentoring club where high school students develop friendships with their fellow students who have special needs or social difficulties. They meet once a grading period and have extracurricular activities throughout the year.

“Because of Falcon Friends, I now see other students saying ‘hi’ to my students in the hallway,” said Andrea Jones, LDHS Special Education Teacher, for life skills. “It’s torn down some walls for the kids.”

Jones begins with an informational meeting for the students, helping them to understand what disabilities are. They discuss about how to talk about these different disabilities and comprehend what is appropriate versus inappropriate.

“We talk a lot about stopping the “R” word,” said Jones. “The problem is, it is still a medical term. That’s the kind of thing we review.”

The students with disabilities fill out a questionnaire so that that the Falcon Friends know their likes and dislikes. This way they will already have topics to discuss and something to talk about. Jones also teaches them about person-first language, meaning letting the students with disabilities talk while the other students listen and learn about their new friends.

Falcon Friends is an elective process where the students sign up and volunteer to be a part of the group. They have one class period per grading period to meet, which is when Jones educates them about proper discussion topics and language. The second half of the meeting usually involves teamwork building games and the ultimate binding tool, pizza. The other events include visiting the Texas State Fair, watching the homecoming parade together and holding a prom-type dance every year at Thousand Oaks Church. They also gathered to watch some of the students participate in Sparkle Cheer, the cheer squad for students with IDD

“I don’t know if they realize the impact the students have on one another,” said Jones. “It’s a mutual learning experience.”

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