Perfect Pals club establishes an online tutoring program for students with special needs

November 5, 2020 — by Vicky Bai

Junior Pooja Manapat, co-president of the Perfect Pals club, presented a slideshow over Zoom on Oct. 12 regarding learning disabilities such as dyslexia, dyscalculia and dysgraphia to educate the club members about the disabilities that special education students may have. 

The Perfect Pals club has returned this year and it aims to foster a more inclusive environment toward students with disabilities by planning activities to do with them at lunch as well as help them with school by tutoring them in various subjects. The club partners mainstream students with students with disabilities who aren’t in mainstream classes. There are around 15 mainstream students and five non-mainstream students participating in the club. 

Perfect Pals club was a strong club in 2018, but faded away last year due to a lack of membership and inactivity. Manapat and co-president Jocelyn Li wanted to renew Perfect Pals, especially due to Covid where students may feel more lonely. Thus, the two reapplied for Perfect Pals to become an official club this August. 

“I remember one time at lunch last year, all the special education students were sitting alone in the corner of the quad,” Manapat said. “I wanted to promote inclusion between these students and I wanted to make the special education students feel welcomed.” 

The club recently expanded from just educational lectures to interacting with the special education students by tutoring them. At the moment, there are seven student tutors and three special education tutees. To gain recognition for the program, the club has asked the special education teachers to spread the word. 

“The process is slow, but definitely worth it. Our tutors do not have a set time to tutor the students, but instead, the tutors will base their schedule upon what the tutees need,” said Manapat. “It all depends on when the special education students feel ready.” 

The club hosts two types of meetings: member meetings and special education student meetings. The member meetings typically cover educational lessons to club members on the needs of special education students. The club has had four member meetings so far, focusing on giving the details on how to become a tutor and teaching members about different learning disabilities.

Perfect Pals also holds monthly meetings with special education students. In these meetings, the members of the club interact with the special education students by playing games, such as the drawing game skribbl.io, or just making conversation. 

“I am excited that there were students at SHS wanting to initiate this interaction and integration. This is an intelligent group of students who are passionate about working with peers with disabilities,” said Kimarette Bou, the club adviser and special education teacher.

This club was originally supposed to be an in-person club where the members would sit with the special education students at lunch and talk or play games with them or hold activities like baking. However, due to county and school restrictions from Covid, everything has to be done on Zoom, which makes the monthly meetings with the special education students difficult. 

“In general, it's harder to stay engaged when staring at a computer online in a bedroom,” Manapat said. “To combat this, we’ve decided to focus on online games instead of just lecturing or talking with the students.” 

Manapat feels that in the past three months, the club has successfully established itself in gaining members and forming the tutoring program. The club hopes to expand the number of people in the tutoring program and continue to host educational meetings, as well as time to interact with the special education meetings to foster inclusivity. 

“I believe their tutoring idea will be helpful not just academically but mentally and socially,” Bou said. “This program will be mutually beneficial for all students involved and hopefully lasting friendships can develop.”