Bankbridge Buddies teaches elementary students social skills, as well as the value of “giving back,” by reaching out to the community to serve residents of a nursing home.
Started in 2007, the program involves fourth- through sixth-grade students at Bankbridge Elementary School, in Gloucester County, who have multiple and behavioral disabilities. Each month, students visit with residents of a nursing home, who require residential care. It fills a gap for the nursing home residents, who miss having one-on-one interaction with the community, especially children.
The Bankbridge Buddies visit for one hour per month, and work with the residents on crafts, coloring or games. The students are encouraged to initiate conversation and reinforce social skills they have learned during their weekly social skills group. The students have learned to embrace the differences and personalities of the residents. Many friendships have developed, such as two students with Asperger’s, who learned to play a braille version of the card game “Uno” with a blind, 50-year-old nursing home resident.
The program is funded by the clinical Services Department, and the school parent association helps provide a snack and a “Meet and Greet” visit by nursing home residents to the school.
Students’ families are involved as well, as each student is allowed to invite a family member to meet the resident he or she befriended.
Contact: Theresa Pramov, school social worker, firstname.lastname@example.org
Recognized by the 2014 Innovations in Special Education program