How to find an appropriate social skills group for your child
Social skills groups are unfortunately hard to come by these days. When we do find one that is for our age group and has open spots, there are some other things to look for to ensure this social skills group is appropriate. For one, are the individuals of similar level? For example, ideally we do not want to have our verbal child paired with a non speaking child when working on social skills. Similar peers will perform better in group, have more in common, and make more progress. It is important to look for social skills groups that meet with their members beforehand to ensure group members are similar in needs. Another is to find out what ages are signed up for the group. This is because a group thats for 13-16, but only has 16 year olds, might have your 13 year old feeling like they do not have much to talk about. Location is also an important element to consider. Do you want children who might be in the same class as your child or would you like them to find new peers perhaps in the town over? Is it realistic to drive 45 minutes versus 15 minutes? Lastly, would your child benefit more from a structured group focusing on learning about specific skills or an unstructured group that is play based but informally works on skills? At Keys To Communicate, we like to incorporate both formats!
Why a holistic approach is one to look for
A holistic approach in social skills world is focused on the whole child. What this means is, the individual needs of the child are targeted in a group setting. Groups are individualized, play centered, and functional. This is beneficial for your child because they are going to be working on their social communication but not even be aware of it! They will be having so much fun playing this weeks game that they didn't recognize initiating conversation was being targeted. This promotes more growth and improvement.
The steps to help our children grow in social skills groups
As parents, how can we help our children grow in these social groups?
Ask questions: "How is Sally doing with X?"
Bring real life examples to your therapist: "I noticed at the park Sally turned away from the girl at the slide".
Ask for homework: "What can we be doing to work on X at home?"
Get a recap: A recap of what happened in group let's parents in on what was being focused on and therefore what can be reiterated to them at home.
Ask for resources: Getting resources from your therapist such as visual supports will be super helpful in targeting skills at home!
Tips for dealing with children who don't want to come to social skills groups
Use if/then language: If you try social skills group for 4 weeks, we can X
Use the "let's try it one time, if you don't like it we don't have to go back again"
Meeting with the therapist leading the group first, if you don't already do individual sessions together
Letting the therapist know some of their interests and favorite things so it can be as engaging as possible for them!
Why you should get started now!:
Joining a social skills group now means:
meeting new friends NOW
improving social skills NOW
becoming more independent NOW
having more fun NOW