The Children's Institute Blog

Students From Two Squirrel Hill Schools Meet

Posted: Oct 25, 2017 by The Children's Institute

Students from The Children’s Institute’s Day School and St. Edmund’s Academy gathered Tuesday at the Halloween-themed party as part of a social-skills program to celebrate differences and learn from each other.

Anthony Pipkin, 10, a St. Edmund’s Academy fourth-grader, ate the candy corn but said it “tasted like wax.” Amiyr Mack, 8, a student at The Day School of The Children’s Institute, wanted potato chips and cookies. Emma Ford, 8, Amiyr’s peer, was more interested in “being with new friends” and less interested in snacks.

But, one thing bound them all.

“My favorite part is certainly the human element,” said St. Edmund’s teacher Robin Colin, who brought two classes of fourth-graders from her school to The Children’s Institute. “They’re the same on the inside – they all want to feel connected, they all want to have friends.”

Friendship played a central role in the Halloween shenanigans, as children from each school partnered up as they sought to bowl over a tower of ghost-adorned toilet paper or play a round or two of “Hot Pumpkin.” And there were more than enough orange-crème-filled Oreos, candy corn, and potato chips to go around.

Just ask Emily Hummert, 10, of St. Edmund’s.

“It’s fun,” she told us, as she scored five candy corns across in Halloween Bingo. “I want candy, more candy.”

“I’m having fun, too,” said Ryleigh Tardy, 9. “This time, we played bingo!”

Stacy Porter Smith, a social-skills therapist at The Children’s Institute, kicks off the initiative by visiting St. Edmund’s – bringing wheelchairs or testing the students’ Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) skills on an iPad with the program Proloquo-To-Go.

“It’s disability awareness,” Stacy said. “When I go to schools, I challenge them and say, ‘When you see that kid sitting all alone on the playground, go over. When you see a kid in a wheelchair, don’t treat them differently. You’re a kid. They’re a kid.’”

Robin said, at the beginning of the partnership each year, some of her students will be a little unfamiliar with children with special needs, and there are “some deer-in-the-highlights moments.”

“By the end of the year, they’re playing together, they’re holding hands, they help with snack,” Robin said. “I really look forward to the comfort level of our students growing as the year progresses.”

Robin said she’s been taking part in the program with The Children’s Institute for all of the seven years she has taught at St. Edmunds, a K-8 school.

“The neat thing is, by the end of the year, the staff is just standing there,” Stacy said, “because the kids, they just grab each other and say, ‘Let’s go!’”

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