For many people, learning how to navigate the social world is effortless. The acquisition of the needed skills and knowledge is such an intuitive and gradual process that we are not aware of the thousands of hours that we spend learning how to get along with other people. For those individuals with social learning difficulties, these skills are not intuitive at all; rather, the lack of social ‘know-how’ can present major roadblocks to the achievement of personal and professional success. For people with social-cognitive deficits, they need help understanding and navigating the complexities of the social world.
We strive to provide our clients with the tools they need in order to experience a positive, everyday improvement in their social interactions. Although some of our clients have a diagnosis, and/or are classified, many do not. Children and adolescents who benefit from our groups are those whose social interactions are impacted by, among other things, shyness, difficulty resolving peer conflicts, inattention, inflexibility, and challenges reading and/or responding to social cues.
We take great care to place each client in a group that best suits his/her needs based on age, level of social and behavioral difficulties, and learning style. This determination is made through a comprehensive assessment process designed to provide us with the information necessary to group children at similar social developmental levels together.
Each group is co-led by professional Social Workers, Speech-Language Pathologists and/or Developmental Specialists. Our goal is to create a safe, supportive environment where group members can explore and practice the skills needed for successful peer interactions. Together, we work the building blocks for age appropriate socialization concepts and themes. The program encourages students to use these developing skills in their daily environments.
Some of the skills we cover include:
- Conversation skills – initiating, maintaining and ending a conversation
- Maintaining a topic and changing the topic of conversation
- Listening skills
- Understanding non-verbal communication – eye contact/referencing, facial expressions, body language, personal space, tone of voice
- Cooperation – planning, organizing and carrying out a plan with peers
- Joining in – to a group, to a conversation
- Problem solving skills
- Friendship building skills
- Negotiation and conflict resolution
Flexible Treatment Approaches
Our group facilitators are seasoned professionals who are trained in multiple treatment approaches. For any given group, the instructional approach is tailored to the functional and developmental level of its members. Depending on the learning styles, facilitators may use direct instruction, interactive learning, modeling, and role-play. Structured activities are used to reinforce specific skills while also encouraging spontaneous group interaction and use of the group process to highlight appropriate skills in action and help with generalization of the skill.
Many of our groups are based on the Social Thinking® curriculum developed by Michelle Garcia Winner. This approach addresses the reasons why social skills are important.
Social Thinking® strategies teach individuals:
- We each have our own minds and need to understand ourselves
- Other people have their own unique minds
- We need to think about the minds of others and how our behavior affects them
- How they respond to our behaviors impacts how they respond to us, which affects how we feel
- Interactions are context specific – we must learn to adjust our behavior to the specific people and situations, across multiple settings –from the structured classroom to the school dance.
Key Components of Our Groups
- Each group is facilitated by two trained professionals
- We offer a variety of groups based on developmental level and learning style
- Groups meet weekly from September through June (except holidays) – the extended calendar allows for better group cohesion and creates opportunities for friendships to form more naturalistically.
- One of the group leaders meet with the parents at the end of each session to discuss the focus of that day’s lesson with the goal of continued practice of the skill and/or review of the lesson outside of group, and into life’s daily routine.
- One on one meetings with parents are held twice during the school year. Written reports are provided twice a year.