‘Buddy Bench’ new tool to help kids with autism communicate, make friends

Posted at 5:44 PM, Apr 06, 2015
and last updated 2015-04-06 19:44:56-04

NORTH SALT LAKE, Utah -- It's well known that children with autism have a difficult time communicating.

But the Spectrum Academy in North Salt Lake has found a unique way to make communicating easier -- and it all involves a simple bench.

The “Buddy Bench” was unveiled Monday.

“It’s somewhere where people can go if they're not included in a game and if you are playing a game, the rule is when you restart the game, you have to invite anyone sitting on the buddy bench,” said Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross.

The simple idea is having a big impact on children who have a difficult time socializing.

“It’s very difficult for our students to socialize,” said Jaime Christensen, director of Spectrum Academy. “That`s one of the hallmark characteristics of autism. And so we have to teach them explicitly on how to be a friend, how to socialize, how to do the things that other kids learn incidentally.”

April is autism awareness month. Christensen said about one in 46 children in Utah have autism.

Teachers at the academy hope the buddy bench will help people better understand and accept children on the autism spectrum.

More than 500 students attend the North Salt Lake Spectrum Academy and 420 more are enrolled at Spectrum's new Pleasant Grove campus.