By: Marisa Herman Associate Editor
Seventh grader Kylie Cohen knows what it is like to be someone’s only friend.
The 13-year-old student is a student intern in a special needs classroom at Eagles Middle Landing.
She sees how the students struggle and also how they flourish.
To help encourage more positive breakthroughs for the nine students in the class, she is raising $10,000 to purchase more sensory friendly resources for the classroom.
The room is equipped with special chairs which are used as a reward, soundproof headphones for children with sensitives to noise and special brushes that help with touch.
“We need more,” she said of the sensory items that help these children learn in a space they are comfortable in. “The goal is to have new kids come in next year and see this whole new environment and have the kids who have already been here have a total change and new experience.”
She said students abilities range and many are lower functioning. Some have autism, others Down Syndrome.
“These items suit everybody’s needs.”
She began working with special needs students last year. In her sixth grade art class there was a student with special needs and she sat in the front of the classroom with him and helped out.
Her interest in helping continued over the summer when she volunteered with the special needs program at the JCC summer camp as a counselor in training.
She signed up for the intern role as her one hour elective period.
She helps the teacher file paperwork and sits one-on-one with the students and helps with their lessons.
“For most of them, I am their only friend,” she said. “I sit and talk with them. They like having the attention.”
She got the idea to raise money for the class at the beginning of the year. Principal Joe Peccia jumped on board and they filmed a video explaining the project. It is uploaded on YouTube and discusses how the students benefit from the sensory resources.
“It feels really rewarding,” Cohen said of her time in the special needs classroom. “Especially when the kids have a breakthrough, saying one of their first words or hugging someone for the first time. It’s always really rewarding.”
For more information, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yns4Qz9iKig&feature=youtu.be
To donate, https://www.finditfunditflorida.com/palmbeach/grant/2461-29716/