Moving America Forward

These Autistic Students Struck a Beautiful Friendship With Local Seniors

July 2, 2014
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These Autistic Students Struck a Beautiful Friendship With Local Seniors
Carsten Koall/Getty Images
A win-win program that allows these young adults get job training while the seniors get to make new friends.

One group is often ignored, the other group is often underestimated. But what happens when you put them together?

A beautiful partnership.

As 11Alive reports, every Tuesday the seniors at the Dogwood Forest Retirement Community get a visit from autistic students at the Lionheart School in Alpharetta, Georgia. Together they’ve formed a friendship that’s mutually beneficial and also tremendously meaningful.

MORE: Watch How This Boy With Autism Renders His Class Speechless

It’s already difficult to land a job in this recovering economy, but for young adults on the autism spectrum, it’s even harder. According to a study published in HealthDay, only 55 percent of young adults with autism have a job in the first six years after high school.

The students at Lionheart, however, are learning real-life skills that will help them get ready for the workplace. You’ll see at 1:57 in the clip below that these students help deliver mail, set the tables, and entertain the residents with games and music.

Meanwhile, the retirees get to interact with these students and make new connections. As one elderly man named Sparky told the TV station, “It means a lot to have people come to see us.”

ALSO: This Unique Education Initiative Connects Lonely Seniors to Chatty Teens

Victoria McBride, head of therapeutic services at Lionheart, told Huffington Post that “social interactions and language processing can be difficult for both students in the school and seniors at the retirement center. Because of this, the pace of conversation and social interaction between the students and the residents can be slower, which allows both parties to engage and interact with more confidence.”

Sounds like a win for everyone involved.

Besides working with the seniors at the retirement center, the younger students at Lionheart also participate in the school’s adorable “LionPaws” program. NorthFulton.com reports that students get to interact with puppies who will become service dogs. This mutually beneficial program helps autistic children relax and reduce their anxiety while their new fuzzy friends get to interact with people.

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