Teen starts nationwide group to help autistic brother and others find friends

Sister works to create inclusion for all
Posted at 3:46 PM, Apr 24, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-24 17:46:44-04

It started out as a way to help her brother, and now, it's become so much more than that. Now one sister's efforts have made an impact far more than she could ever imagine.

In their household, twins Sarah and Jacob Greichen are both included and involved. But one day after school a few years ago, Greichen realized outside the walls of their home, it was a different story.

"My brother got in and he was crying," Greichen said. "And he was saying, 'Mom I have no friends why don't I have any friends.'"

Jacob has autism, and exclusion took its toll.

"He actually stopped talking completely," Greichen recalled. "He regressed, he went from probably a fourth, fifth, sixth-grade level to first-grade level and it was a really hard time for my family."

Greichen decided to do something. And at 13 years old, she founded the non-profit Score A Friend, which builds clubs for students with and without intellectual disabilities in schools and communities.

"Every single kid meets friends through school or though activities and sports," Greichen said. "And Score A Friend is creating those opportunities for everyone. So that they can meet friends and then those friendships can go from school to home."

Clubs can be focused on sports or electives, and one club even got the whole school involved with score a friend week.

"They talk about inclusion," Greichen said. "What unified sports are what person first language is what do you say when you walk up to a person with a disability and what is the right way to act."

Now, Score A Friend has gone national, spreading to more than a dozen schools across the country, including at least two colleges.

"I mean now we have commercials and billboards out which is crazy!" Greichen exclaimed. "I mean, I never would have guessed this from the beginning."

But for Greichen, her brother is the true measure of success.

"Jacob finally started talking again," Greichen said. "He started playing sports again he started talking to other students and he actually had people to sit with at lunch."

Greichen sees Score A Friend becoming a movement. One inspired by the person closest to her, and impacting the whole world.