This past month, the HDS Foundation had the opportunity to collaborate with the ESE Social Skills project class in a ‘getting to know each other’ lunch event. Cristina Miranda, President of the HDS Foundation, together with Ms. Donna Mansollilo, Mrs. Kathleen Gorman-Gard (both co-teachers of this project class), and Dr. Sandy Rizzo Weiner of Customized Interventions coordinated this activity. A custom map was created in order to aid the students in familiarizing themselves with the Weston area, specifically with the locations they frequent, including restaurants, grocery stores, and movie theaters. Additionally, the students engaged in informative “friendship interviews,” in which they were able to find out more about each other. Following each interview question, the students rotated and partnered up with a new classmate to make sure they each had opportunities to interview different classmates, making for a wholly diversified experience. Through this activity, they learned a great deal about each other, including their favorite foods, what kind of movies they liked, and which of them was their neighbor.

Although this experience seems simple and introductory on the surface, it nonetheless is vital for the development of the students’ social skills. Possessing the ability to talk to somebody unfamiliar is a huge component of socializing and making new friends. The students gained exposure to this through the asking of questions they carried out. Even more, though, is the understanding of where a person comes from and how he or she lives on a day-to-day basis. This knowledge of a person’s background gives insight into the lens through which that person views the world, otherwise known as their own perspective. And, in socializing, perspective is key. Understanding where a person is coming from and how they may be feeling is vital to having successful conversation. The exposure the students got to this concept from this lunch event has brought them one step closer to feeling comfortable and ready to converse in social situations.