Social Skills Through Group Interaction

woman teaching class of small children, social skills group

Sherri Germann leads a class of preschoolers during a Hungry Caterpillar themed week at The Speech and Language Center.

A new service offering at Boone County Family Resources, Social Skills Group experiences are designed to assist individuals with developmental disabilities to develop social communication and interaction skills for success in community settings, employment and in the individual’s home.

Athen, age 11, is on the autism spectrum and struggles with picking up on social cues and communicating. His support coordinator referred him to The Speech and Language Center where he participates in social language skills groups with his peers. His grandmother and guardian, Sandy, says he enjoys the social skills group and recently asked if they could see if there was going to be another group available after his current session ends. Sandy believes Athen benefits greatly from the group. “In the beginning, he would shy away from any activity that was strange or different than what was expected. But now, he is actively participating in the social skills group,” says Sandy. “I think this is a very valuable service. He is definitely communicating better with his peers and is proactively engaging in conversations with adults that he knows.”

These services are typically provided in a small group settings with each participant having individual goals. Sessions are facilitated by therapists giving participants a chance to actively practice what they are learning through games, activities and role play. Some of the things the school-aged group works on at the Speech and Language Center include: greeting others, asking questions, interpreting facial expressions and body language, taking turns, understanding humor, and listening to and understanding another’s point of view – all important skills to make friends and form relationships.

Maya, age 3, started attending the preschool-aged group at The Speech and Language Center in spring of 2016. Her vocabulary was low and she was hard to understand. “Maya has grown by leaps and bounds and is now more on level with her typically developing peers,” says Maya’s mother Nicole. “She loves going. It is a great program.” The younger therapy group focuses on getting kids ready for the classroom through play-based learning. Nicole says Maya does not even notice that she’s at a therapy session due to the group activities like group play, art projects and snack time. “She was excited about ‘Circle Time’ when she got to pick the song that they were going to sing. All the kids seem very happy and like they are having fun.” Nicole says Maya is now much more understandable when she speaks and seems to have a better grasp on language. “Our neighbor has even commented that they can understand Maya now when she talks with them.”

Some social skills groups geared toward adults help individuals with work-related communication skills, including interviewing and interacting with co-workers. Additional providers are being sought for more social skills group offerings. Contact your support coordinator for additional information about this new service.