Our Split the Plate partner for September is Good Friend, Inc. an organization that promotes the beauty of diversity, the strength in community, and the magic in inclusion. When I learned about Good Friend, Inc I was immediately interested because, many years ago, I taught in a school for children who had been identified as having autism. This was well before we talked about a spectrum and before we recognized the potential of many people with autism. At that time, the school where I taught was a coveted position. All of the students had been identified as having autism. Now, with much more understanding, I realize that what we thought was a wonderful environment for the students instead stifled their opportunities by not including typically developing peers. That’s what is so exciting about Good Friend, Inc. They promote appropriately supported inclusion in all avenues of life.

They are a non-profit organization using social-emotional tools to establish a culture of acceptance in schools and beyond. Good Friend, Inc. works to create autism awareness, teach the acceptance of differences, and foster empathy for people on the autism spectrum. Autism is a neuro-biological disorder that is now diagnosed at a rate of 1 in 36 (new rate) children and is prevalent in 2.2 percent of adults in the U.S. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020).

Good Friend, Inc. was started in 2007 by two mothers of children identified as on the spectrum. They watched their children struggle to make friends with their classmates, and from other parents of children on the spectrum, they learned that their children were not unique in their struggle. Good Friend, Inc. offers workshops for students and teachers that are tailored to fit the needs of the classroom dynamics. Since 2007, GFI has conducted services for students and professionals, explaining autism in age-appropriate, user-friendly terminology using positive, interactive tools to help others “step in the shoes” of someone on the spectrum.

They offer workshops for employers, and employees with the goal of providing support for an inclusive environment. Good Friend Inc can help companies create an inclusive hiring process and working environment through their new Neurodiversity at Work training coming out early 2024.

A unique offering is their “Sibshops” which acknowledge that being the brother or sister of a person with a brain-based disability can be a good thing for some, a not-so-good thing for others, and for many, somewhere in-between. They reflect a belief that brothers and sisters have much to offer one another — if they are given a chance. Sibshops (sibling workshops) are peer support and educational programs where school-age brothers and sisters meet other siblings to have fun, laugh, talk about the good and not so good parts of having a sibling with special needs, play some great games, and learn something about the services their brother or sister receives.

Good Friend has touched tens of thousands of individuals and families since 2007 and UUCW is proud to support their work. For more information, visit goodfriendinc.com

To help support Good Friend, you can:

  • Go to the UUCW website’s “Donate” tab and select “Split the Plate” from the menu provided.
  • Or text your donation to 73256.
  • Or mail your donation to UUCW, 13001 W. North Ave., Brookfield WI 53005-5219

For more information about Split the Plate, contact Kathy Lake.