Saturday, February 13, 2010

Buddy Break - Take II

Buddy Break (from Nathaniel's Hope) had a great beginning at a church near us last month. The second Buddy Break rolled around again over the weekend, and my girl looked forward to going again.

And, of course, she walked right in and never looked back at ol' mom!

She did pause with me at the registration table, got her name tag, met her Buddy before going in. She joined me in the "getting started" process so naturally that I didn't think much about it until I noticed a little boy go right in, eating a hashbrown from McDonald's. (Buddy Break has a special room for snacks and food, and he wasn't in it, which raised a red flag for me--I want the staff monitoring the food situation!). He didn't pause with his parent at the registration table--he went into the sanctuary faster than his parent and the staff could stop him.

The wall between the sanctuary and the lobby is filled with long windows, so those of us in the lobby can see what's happening inside the sanctuary. I watched for a few minutes and left to run errands for a couple of hours.

When I returned to get my girl about 20 minutes early, the whole group were in the sanctuary (Buddy Break begins and ends there each month) playing something with a ball (I have no idea what-it was a game I did not recognize), and then they played a huge game of Duck Duck Goose with all the siblings and Buddies and VIPs. My girl was engaged in the games and having a BIG time! ;)

The staff out in the lobby came to talk to me as soon as I walked in the door -- they had a "yo yo man" come to perform for the group. He asked for a volunteer and my girl's hand went right up, they told me. She did everything he asked -- he accidentally hit her on the side of the head (arg) -- and they said she was GREAT! (I wish someone had taped it for me!)

When we were pulling out of the parking lot to head home, I asked her, "How was it? Thumbs up!?" and she replied, "DOUBLE thumbs up, Mom!"

They treat the kids like KIDS there and not like special needs kids -- I love that! Some of the anecdotes I heard about other children warmed my heart so! They allow the children a lot of autonomy -- there's no "have to's" and the volunteer Buddies are not trying to "get" something from the kids. One of the leaders told me about one little boy who resisted leaving one room to go to another activity, and they told him that was fine, but he'd be missing something fun. And in a few minutes, he wanted to go see what was happening in the other room. How RESPECTFUL is that of them, to allow him to make his own decision, to give him processing time !!!!! I love that! He is learning that they're not trying to "get" something from him, that Buddy Breaks are not therapy-based. Buddy Breaks are relationship based! ;) They allowed him to be an active participant, used experience sharing language with him, let go of demands and expectations so that he could make his own choices.

Many more volunteers have joined Buddy Break since the first session a month ago--the people there are so warm and welcoming to all of us, especially the VIP kids. As we were waiting for the session to end, I was able to overhear leaders talking to other parents as they arrived to pick up children, and the stories being related to the parents were so upbeat and positive!

We have begun visiting this church since Buddy Break. WE feel like VIPs there. Because of Buddy Break, many adults recognize my daughter when we enter on a Sunday morning, and come to introduce themselves to us. I heard that one of the long-time families there who has an 8-year-old with special needs a few weeks ago told the congregation that since Buddy Break they no longer feel isolated at their own church because so many people come up to greet them now.

Buddy Break is an amazing program in so many ways!


Karen said...

This sounds like a GREAT program, Penny. The schools could use to learn from it. I subbed in a room where there was one child with behavioral issues--they even had a separate room because he spit, etc. (was NOT on the spectrum), but in an EI room. The principal even greeted me to "warn" me. When the boy came in, he didn't want to take off his coat. I told the paras to let him sit in the beanbag and told him that when he was ready, he could join us for circle time. Within MINUTES, he went and took off his coat and came and sat at circle time. The staff said it was the best day he had had. All it took was respecting him and giving him choices, instead of trying to control his every move.

Dani G said...

Penny! I love this story! I needed to hear it tonight. I'm feeling so hopeless. You know my girl just turned 5 and I needed to hear hope about kids older than mine. Thank you for sharing!

The Glasers said...

What an absolute blessing!

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