Special Friends is a social service club which pairs Notre Dame and St. Mary's students with local children affected by autism spectrum disorders. Although we host various events throughout the year, the club relies heavily on one-on-one interactions. As a student volunteer, you will receive the contact information of a family that has requested a Special Friend. You will then contact your family and establish a time to meet with your Friend on a regular basis.
The Kids and Families
Most of our Special Friends families have been contacted through LOGAN, South Bend's Regional Autism Center. Some families have also contacted us directly.
We work with a wide age range of children, affected by a variety of autism spectrum disorders and at a variety of functioning levels. We do our best to pair Friends based on shared interests, experience, and other factors.
What Can You Do Together?
- Games, sports, and other outdoor activities
- Arts and crafts
- Homework help
- Therapy: ABA, PLAY Project, Greenspan, etc
- Work on social skills by practicing conversation scripts, helping them recognize emotions, role playing
- Field trips (zoo, bowling, ice skating, ND campus, etc)
Don't have a car on campus?
You can still volunteer even if you don't have a car on campus! Some families are willing to bring their child to campus, or to give you a ride for visits. If you do not have access to a car, we will try to pair you accordingly.
Notre Dame's Center for Social Concerns also allows students to borrow cars for service activities. The program is very easy to use and free to students. It entails attending a short training session at the beginning of the year, and then filling out a form at the beginning of the semester to request a vehicle time slot. More information can be found here.
What to look forward to this semester!
- Making a Special Friend--many students choose to stay with the same child for several years.
- Meet & Greet party in September
-LOGAN Date Nights
-Holiday parties and Easter Egg Hunt
-Annual Autism Conference in March
Becoming a Special Friend
Volunteering with Special Friends is a very rewarding experience! Participating in the program is a great way to form a strong relationship with a local family, make a difference in a child's life, and learn more about autism spectrum disorders.
Volunteers can join at any time throughout the academic year, though most pairing is completed by the end of September.
Our expectations for student volunteers are:
Meeting with Your Special Friend
1) Commit to spending 1-4 hours per week with your Friend
2) Communicate with your Friend's family on a regular basis
3) Let your Friend's family know in advance if you are unable to meet or attend club social events
1) Attend the majority of club meetings/events and email the officers in advance if you're unable to come
2) Gain a greater understanding and awareness of autism, and teach others by sharing knowledge and experience
If you are interested in becoming a Special Friend, please fill out this application!
Other Volunteer Opportunities
We're always looking for volunteers for LOGAN childcare, planning social events and the annual conference, and for future officers! Check out our Calendar of Events or email us at email@example.com.