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Season's Givings: Sherman Oaks nonprofit 'The Help Group' provides support for children with special needs

Andrea Lockhart is a volunteer with The Help Group's after-school improv program. She shares her experience with KPCC.
Andrea Lockhart is a volunteer with The Help Group's after-school improv program. She shares her experience with KPCC.
Amy Lieu/KPCC

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This post is part of KPCC's "Season's Givings" series, chronicling volunteer experiences  and opportunities during the holiday season. View a full listing of charitable organizations seeking help this season and let us know your holiday volunteer story!

Based in Sherman Oaks, The Help Group  operates nine day schools on seven campuses in the Los Angeles area to provide services for children with special needs related to autism, Asperger's Disorder, learning disabilities, ADHD, developmental delays and emotional problems.

“Typically, kids with autism have a difficult time with social skills. Through the improv games, we help kind of develop those," says Andrea Lockhart, a volunteer for The Help Group’s after-school program.

The improv workshop is only one of the after-school activities offered by The Help Group's Kids Like Me program. Designed to encourage kids with autism and other developmental challenges to laugh, play and interact with one another, the programs are located on The Help Group's Sherman Oaks and Culver City campuses and are open to the public. Other classes offered after school include social skills groups, Yoga Train, ballet, chess, basketball and karate.

Lockhart has been with the program since October. 

"A lot of kids with autism tend to be bullied more than neurotypical kids," she said. "Their self-esteem tends to be a little bit lower. Here at The Help Group, they have these amazing after-school programs that help to encourage, support and uplift these kids."

The program serves more than 1,500 pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade students.  

“It's inspiring," said Lockhart. "It makes my week. Every week that I'm here. It’s so uplifting to be a part of this and hope that we're making a little bit of a difference.”

On Saturday, Dec. 15, The Help Group will host a Holiday Carnival at their Sherman Oaks campus for the families in need. The group is looking for more volunteers. For more information, go to their website.

An earlier version of this story misstated the nature of The Help Group's relationship with schools, mischaracterized the nature of its programs and misspelled Andrea Lockhart's name. KPCC regrets the errors.