Program helps create positive school experience for children with autism

Bridges to Learning program helps kids build social skills

DETROIT – Knowing numbers, letters and colors are things that many children with autism excel at, but the social aspect of school is much more difficult.

"Take reciprocal conversations -- so taking turns they might know how to speak and they can ask questions, but they don't know how to wait and listen for an answer, which makes it hard for them to have friends. It makes it hard for them on the playground," Stephanie Naberhaus said.

Naberhaus, a speech and language pathologist, and her husband, Brad Naberhaus, developed the Bridges to Learning program to help preschool and kindergarten kids build the social skills they need.

"Just when a parent comes to you and says, 'I don't know what we would have done without the Bridges program,'" Stephanie Naberhaus said.

"I would imagine a lot of it is a relief because a lot of parents probably feel like they are all by themselves," Mitch Albom said.

"Exactly. They feel like they have found a place that is safe, where they know their kids are going to be taken care of, where they are going to learn, where they are going to have fun," Stephanie Naberhaus said.

With small class sizes, Bridges to Learning meets five days a week, and with teachers like Miss Julie, the children are loving it.

"When you talk to a parents down the path where they didn't think they were going to go and then they share that with you, that’s a pretty special moment," Brad Naberhaus said.

It's a path that both Stephanie and Brad Naberhaus hope that all of their students will follow.

"Has there been a moment where you had a kid who really didn't communicate that you got to actually say their first words?" Albom asked.

"I have been in my therapy room before and my eyes fill up with tears because that is one of the most rewarding things that can happen," Stephanie Naberhaus said.

By creating that first positive school experience for children with autism, Stephanie and Brad Naberhaus are making school cool again in the heart of Detroit.