IRMO, SC - A group of sixth graders at CrossRoads Intermediate School have teamed up with Harbison West Elementary School for an “au-some” cause.
A year ago, fifth graders from Ms. Brenna Lamprey’s class at Harbison West felt compelled to give back to younger students with special needs after preschool teacher Ms. Beth Reilly shared a book about Autism to her class. The students decided to create the group called “Project Au-Some,” a big buddy, little buddy system where the fifth graders started spending more time with the preschoolers to learn more about different disabilities.
As the students began spending more time together, the Big Buddies started planning and teaching lessons for the Little Buddies, focused on specific learning goals. Lessons consisted of gross and fine motor skills, social skills and developmentally appropriate academic skills. Relationships between the students blossomed over the school year, and when the year ended, the fifth graders decided they didn’t want their little buddy friendships to end. The now sixth graders at CrossRoads Intermediate School have kept the program alive by creating “Club Au-Some.”
“As teachers we always try to work with our students and teach them, but we have found through Project Au-Some that they learn so many more skills with their peers,” Reilly said. “They really enjoy listening and watching what the older students have to say, and they are much more engaged with the students rather than the teachers who are telling them what to do, and how to do it.”
Project and Club Au-Some have been difference makers in the preschoolers lives. Once shy and unsure about spending time with fellow students, Ms. Reilly’s class is all smiles and laughter when their Big Buddies come to visit. The same can be said for the Big Buddies who have taken an idea and turned it into something special. “It is simply incredible that the students have turned this into a blossoming program,” Lamprey said. “I am so incredibly proud of the leadership they have shown. We have extended our efforts to other schools in the district with a few of our former fifth graders who are now sixth graders at Irmo Middle School.”
District Five Director of Special Services Dr. Angie Slatton offered her thoughts on the program saying, “This is exactly what we want to happen in public education where the diversity of all students and the opportunity for them all to interact with each other. It is thrilling to see a program like Project Au-Some in our district.” Coordinator of Special Services Jinni Friend added, “It’s all about kids learning acceptance from all students and being able to include all students. The younger they learn that, the more accepting they are as they get older and become adults.” Watching the buddies interact, it is clear to see that everyone involved benefits from this innovative program.