Interaction Based Social Skills Groups
I believe that human beings learn social skills best by interacting socially – by playing, not by reading, writing, or listening to lectures. In my groups, we talk together about issues in the lives of the group members and play games – card games, board games, computer games, whatever appeals to the members of the group. I am there to facilitate, to guide, and comment. Through playing with their peers, in a safe and supportive environment, free of the teasing and rejection they have experienced far too often in their lives, with the guidance of a helpful, fun-loving adult, their social skills improve by leaps and bounds. For many of the members of the group, this is the first time in their lives they have had positive social experiences.
Social Skills Group Benefits
Children, teenagers and young adults with a variety of psychiatric diagnoses are in these groups, but the common thread is that all of these kids have been on the fringes of social groups throughout their lives. These are kids who have struggled chronically to make friends and keep friends; many or most have suffered teasing, rejection, bullying, and humiliation at the hands of their peers. Some of the kids in my groups have the diagnosis of Aspergers Disorder; others have High-Functioning Autism. Others are extremely shy or socially anxious. Still others do not have a specific diagnosis along these lines but are awkward socially and have various difficulties with their peers.
When these kids join one of my groups, they quickly realize – typically within the first session or two –that here is a totally different social setting. Here is a place where there will be no teasing, where they can fit in and find a sense of belonging for which they have yearned so desperately. They see that here are other kids who have had similar experiences and suffered similar pains over rejection and teasing as they have. In short, here is a place where they can fully fit in with and be accepted by their peers. For many, the group is a highlight of their week.
After a metting with parent(s) and a child, we develop a behavioral contract. All of the kids in each of my groups are on individual behavioral contracts, based on their particular areas of difficulty. They work on these at home and the contracts are reviewed between parent(s) and child on a daily basis, with the parent scoring the child's performance on each goal. The child gets points from these contracts which they can use, along with points they earn during the group itself, to purchase items from the reward shelves. This serves as big motivator for many of these kids.