Primary Intervention Program 
    Special Pal Program


    All children have social and emotional needs, and most of these needs are met through the home, school, and the play environment. Sometimes, however, a child may have special needs which require additional attention.  These needs may arise from a family change, such as birth, death, illness, divorce, move, etc.  Additionally, some children may be a little shy, withdrawn, or overly active and may need help in finding new, more effective ways to express feelings in positive ways.  The Special Pal Program (P.I.P.) would benefit these children.

    What Is the Special Pal Program (P.I.P.)?

    The Special Pal Program (P.I.P.)is designed to supplement the educational experience and personal development of young school children, kindergarten through third grade.  This is accomplished through early awareness of, and attention to behavioral, emotional, or learning difficulties.

    What Are Its Purposes?

    Our goals are:

    To help your child get a good start in school by providing a nurturing atmosphere that encourages a healthy self-image and positive social skills,thereby improving school adjustment and academic achievement.

    To identify your child’s individual needs early so that we can plan a program to help make his or her educational experience the most successful.

     The Special Pal Program (P.I.P.) program follows eight principles and guidelines:

    • Develop a warm, friendly relationship with the child.
    • Accept the child exactly as he or she is.
    • Recognize and reflect the child's feelings.
    • Respect the child's ability to solve his or her own problems.
    • The child leads the way.
    • Change is a gradual process.
    • Establish only necessary limits.



    How Are Children Selected?

    After teacher observation and class screening, the Special Pal Program team decides which children may benefit from the program, and parent contact is made.

    The Special Pal team in our school consists of your child’s teacher, the program coordinator, program associates, volunteers, and other support staff. 

    When parent permission is obtained, a child may enter the program. A parent consultation is encouraged where the parents can share their views regarding their child’s development.

    Each child in the program is assigned to a child development associate who works with the child in the “Special Pal” room for 30-40 minutes once a week. This room is set up so that the child and his or her Special Pal can be involved in various activities including drawing, painting, play, sand table, games, puppetry, etc.

    The length of time a child spends in the program depends on each child’s individual needs.  Parent conferences may be requested by parents at any time.

     Who Are “Special Pals”?

    Special Pals are carefully selected and trained paraprofessionals and volunteers who work under the supervision of a consulting mental health supervisor. They provide non-directive play sessions for children that are designed to establish a positive, meaningful relationship to reduce school adjustment difficulties.

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    How Does the Program Work?


    The Friday Harbor Special Pal Program (P.I.P.) is a school-based program designed to help primary grades (K-3) children adapt to a school environment and to enhance their personal development by:

    • increasing their self-esteem,
    • teaching them pro-social behaviors, and 
    • improving their ability to express themselves

     The Special Pal Program (P.I.P.) provides children with the exclusive attention of a nonjudgmental, trusting adult in a safe environment at school. Through non-directive play techniques in a specially equipped room, the Special Pal facilitates the child's self-direction, self-exploration, and self-growth.

    Non-directed play describes a method by which an adult (parent, friend, teacher, therapist) plays with the child, but lets that child lead and be the sole decision-maker of their play time together. The adult supports the child without directing his or her choice of activities. Through self-directed play, young children are able to identify and learn to solve some of their own problems.

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    The Magic Of Play

    Play is a child's way of communicating. It provides a means for children to express what they feel, when sometimes they may not have the words. It is a vehicle for the development of important skills. Play also helps a child learn coordination and social skills, as well as enhance their attention and concentration. It provides an avenue to build up self-esteem and increases self-confidence. Play is about learning and having fun.  The ultimate goal of the Special Pal Program (P.I.P.) program is to help the child in school to make their school experience the best it can be. 

    Primary Project

     The Special Pal Program (P.I.P.) has been at Friday Harbor Elementary School since 1983 and is based on the Primary Project in Rochester, New York.

    Many thanks to our funders: San Juan County United Way, San Juan Community Foundation, San Juan Island School District, as well as program volunteers, anonymous donors and private individual donors. Because of their generous and dependable donations, we have been able to sustain this successful program.

    For more information contact us: 
    Alexis Hauck, Program Coordinator
    Phone: (360) 370-7344

    Email: alexishauck@sjisd.org 

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