Program Sparks Beautiful, 'Unique Chemistry' Between Students With Autism And Elderly

Students with autism in Alpharetta, Georgia, are forming unique friendships with the elderly through a very special program.

The Lionheart School provides a specialized learning environment for students, including a vocational program that brings their older students who have autism together with senior citizens in a win-win of friendship and real-world training.

Every Tuesday, the students look forward to going to the Dogwood Forest Retirement Community where they help out, 11Alive reported.

"We began slowly at first, delivering the mail and playing recreational games," Heather Wagner, a director at the Lionheart School, told The Huffington Post in an email. "From there we added on, setting the tables for the meals, playing word games and singing songs with the residents in the memory care unit."

The activities help to prepare the students for life outside of the school system by providing them with useful skills, but they also bring together two seemingly very different groups of people.


Victoria McBride, head of therapeutic services at the school, explained, via email, 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.


"There is a unique chemistry that I observe between our students and the residents," Wagner told HuffPost. "I have observed our students encouraging the residents during group games, helping our students recall words when they are in the memory care unit, and it provides an opportunity for our children to demonstrate their abilities in a less stressful environment."

But it's not only the students who benefit. As a resident tells 11Alive in the video above, "It just means a lot to have people come to see us."

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