Teaching Kids Empathy for Those with Autism and Special Needs

Read Transcript

There's a lot of bullying that goes on in schools and at recess. The University of California just did a report that 46% of children who have autism have experienced bullying, so we wanted to combat that we even looked into it further we found out the number is a lot higher. The Autism Interactive Network, or the Interactive Autism Network reported the number is actually around 63%.

So we said why can't we hit it at the recourse. So why can't we find out at what age can we teach children to be accepting of everyone. That kid was playing tee ball and parents and other teammates were calling for the coach just to skip and turn his bat. We're talking about tee ball.

10 to 11 year old kids that's not the point of the game, right it's not, and coaches today are unintentionally callus, kids are way too competitive and that's the root of it, that's where we wanted to start now. Special need athletic programs it's not prominent in Morristown, New Jersey.

I started it back in 2009 when our close family friend was diagnosed with autism, mostly it started with athletics. We saw that our family friend really wasn't being included when it came to recreational things even just in school, at launch and at recess, we knew that we can provide not only him but his friends with a team, an opportunity to be a part of something.

And it quickly grew and what started just sports clinics grew into an educational platform as well. It was the family friend that you do everything with. Family vacations, family dinners, holidays, I was always big with sports, so as my brother and seeing someone that we know not being included, or seeing friends and family, sorry seeing other kids, just unintentionally callus when it comes to sports.

We knew that we could do something, and we did. And we saw such a tremendous impact on this kids life, and that's kind of where it started, and it's only grown from there, from 2 to 3 kids down to 10, 11 kids, up to 10, 11 kids, and then all of a sudden we have wait lists and we had to expand into Morris Plains, and Warren, and Lodi throughout New Jersey, and now it's in six other states.

So in 2010, we saw that there was definitely a need to make an educational initiative, that's where we kind of branched not only to include sports but we branched away to include education and we found that volunteers at our clinics were learning so much that we wanted to implement that at a greater level and to have every third to fifth grader throughout Morris School District in New Jersey, have these training.

So we created these hands on modules with the help of teachers, and parents, and educators. We created what's now the Snap Sensitivity Tournament. So what these kids do is they experience what it's like to have a disability we teach them empathy over sympathy. They use mirrors and balance balls and other techniques, to feel what it's like, and at the end of the day, they know what it's like to be bullied so they're not going to bully themselves.

So for example, through the use of a mirror and a maze, and a piece of paper, we are able to simulate what it's like to have dyslexia. So students will look into the mirror and try and write their name. It's extremely frustrating and our mentors who are now students who've done the training previously, plus a gym teacher and myself will add to the frustration.

We'll ask them what's taking so long, or why can't you write your name? Imagine doing a standardized test like this, and the kids get very frustrated. Other examples are we do balance techniques. We have students trying to play simple game of catch balls standing on dinning desk or balance boards.

They see how hard it is to do in everyday activity that most of them take for granted, and it's amazing to see these kids have trouble with that, and after they do these training, they're less likely to actually bully other kids or to tease other kids who are having trouble.