FRIENDS Groups is more than a social skills program. It helps children develop the social language, emotional processing and sensory regulation skills necessary for making and keeping friends. It’s difficult to have a social interaction without processing emotions in the moment. Our occupational and speech therapists co-lead our groups and are effective at helping children understand this link. Group themes include processing emotions, reading/using non-verbal cues, conversational skills/reciprocity, problem solving,negotiating and increasing self awareness.Our therapist model and coach students in the “social thinking” concepts of Michelle Garcia Winner. The skills focus on the “why” and “how” of their and others abilities to process social information. We provide opportunities both structured and unstructured to practice and reinforce skills. Our goal is to help children to use these skills outside of our FRIENDS Groups.
The answer is that all children would benefit. Because creating and maintaining relationships requires the social and emotional skills that can be hard for children to learn. Here’s a profile of children we often see:
- Avoids play dates or peer social situations
- Inflexible to other’s ideas
- Difficulty joining and participating in groups
- Not able to hold age appropriate conversations with peers
- Socially aggressive, shy or awkward
How is it different from my child participating in a group sport or social activity?
Extra-curricular programs typically focus on learning and participating in an activity but not the skills necessary for being successful in that activity with others. In our FRIENDS Groups we model and coach the skills necessary for developing relationships while participating in a variety of activities. While on the spot coaching is provided by our therapist – often times the most valuable feedback comes from peers. Children learn from each other. Our play groups teach, practice and reinforce the skills necessary for successful social relationships.
Why are social skills important?
Research has shown that these skills can be more important than academic skills for future success. Additionally, social and emotional skills help kids become good communicators, cooperative members of a team, effective leaders and caring and concerned members of their communities. These are the very skills that help children learn how to set and achieve goals and how to persist in the face of challenges. These are precisely the skills that employers will look for in the work force of the future.
Do insurance companies typically reimburse for social skills programs?
We invoice using the billing codes related to occupational therapy or speech and language therapy. These invoices provide all the information insurance companies need to process claims. The amount reimbursed is dependent upon what a client’s plan provides for out-of-network services.
Tween and Teen Programs
Depending on interest, we offer a tween and teen FRIENDS Group to help older kids gain greater confidence in their communication and friendship skills. While we will use a developed curriculum, themes will reflect current challenges teens are facing in and out of school.
Improvisation for Social Language
Improv is a fun way to help students make social connections while having fun! Students will use improv to improve social language skills within a supportive setting. No previous improv or theater experience necessary. Various social concepts will be explored and tied into a variety of theater games which will not only enhance performance skills, but help produce positive relationships and improved social thinking. Areas of social language skills include: flexible thinking, attention/focus, comprehension and use of non-verbal language/gestures, emotion, perspective taking, whole body listening, problem solving, self confidence, reciprocity and conversational skills. Improv classes will be taught by a speech pathologist with a background in improvisation.