Friends @ Home gives children with special needs the chance to bond with teen volunteers in the environment in which they are most comfortable, their own home. Children and their volunteers spend an hour every other week playing basketball, baking cookies, playing games, creating arts ‘n crafts, reading books or doing just about anything that interests the child with special needs. Having his/her friends over to play – an activity taken for granted by most children – instills immense feelings of belonging and self-value in a child with special needs.
Interactions between teen volunteers and children go beyond a typical play-date. Children with special needs gain much needed social interaction and friendship and volunteers learn the meaning of inclusion and friendship and learn responsibility.
While children and volunteers develop meaningful relationships, parents receive valuable time to rest and recharge. With so much to look forward to at these visits, it is no wonder the families wait all week for their volunteers to show up at their doorsteps!
These visits can be arranged to accommodate a wide variety of schedules.
This program offers a unique opportunity for children to gain from group activities while still receiving one-on-one attention from their volunteers. Participants partake in structured activities such as baking, arts and crafts, and music. Through these experiences, children with special needs develop and practice important life skills in a comfortable setting catered to their specific needs.
Teen volunteers visit children with special needs and children from difficult backgrounds at the Glenwood Autism and Behavioral Center and bring them gifts and cheer, as well as learning from their special friend.
Behind every child with special needs is a champion.
But even champions need a break sometimes. The Friendship Circle provides Moms' Nights Out, a time for moms with similar challenges and triumphs to come together for some pampering and a much needed night out. Not only do moms get a respite, but they also gain from other moms' experience.
MOMS NIGHT OUT
The Young Adult Circle is an innovative program that serves young adults with a full range of physical, mental, and cognitive special needs through one-on-one friendships and social opportunities with other young adults in our community.
YOUNG ADULT CIRCLE
Dance Circle is once a month dance circle for children 2-6 to dance, play with instruments, and practice creative expression with typical peers.
The Friendship Circle of Alabama is proud to announce we are starting a new service with HeartShine Kids Yoga to offer inclusive yoga classes for kids with special needs alongside buddy peers. This program is currently offered for 9th-12th graders, but keep an eye out for additional yoga classes for ages 2 to 6! The teenage yoga classes are weekly on Sundays at 3 PM at the LJCC.
Yoga is growing in popularity in the U.S. as a complementary therapy for children with special needs and autism. In addition to benefits typically associated with yoga—improved strength and flexibility, and an increasing sense of peace—autistic children also experience a reduction of pain, anxiety, aggression, obsessive behaviors, and self-stimulatory activities. These children are also having greater success making new friends and regulating emotions. (Source: Scott Anderson of YogAutism)
Katherine Kimerling of HeartShine Kids Yoga says,"I have had seen firsthand the benefits of yoga and mindfulness within my own family, with my own children. Not just the physical benefits, but more importantly, the boost in self confidence and emotional resiliency, the self-awareness and self-regulation tools, the ability to pause and recognize an emotional state and then pull from their own toolbox of strategies to process those difficult emotions and return to a feeling of calm."
Please contact to sign up for this class.
This program was made possible by a grant from the Birmingham Jewish Foundation.
Our teen volunteers give of themselves to others, and the Friendship Circle recognizes how big that is. To show our appreciation, we prepare fun and innovative teen programming as well as an end of the year appreciation dinner where the honorees are the teens themselves.
Teens with special needs are invited to these programs as well to socialize with their peers.