Who are they for?
Social Skills groups target kids who have difficulty mixing with other kids. They may show aggressive behaviour, such as hitting or biting, which can often be caused by a lack of other effective means of communication. Kids who are shy or awkward in group settings can benefit, as well as kids who are generally poor at turn taking or cooperating where other kids are involved. Social skills groups are usually developed with kids who have special needs in mind. Kids with autism spectrum disorders find participating in social skills groups particularly beneficial, as social skills are usually a major issue for this client group.
Social skills groups are typically run by early childhood educators or allied health professionals experienced working with children. For children with special needs, specialist input is desirable. Groups jointly run by a multi-disciplinary team (e.g occupational therapist and speech therapist) will benefit from the mixed experience and high level of training of the group leaders.
What happens during group sessions?
There are usually 4 – 6 kids in a typical therapy group. This number is less overwhelming and allows group leaders to better supervise interactions. The group is usually led through introductions and ‘ice breaking’ activities. The format of the group depends on the type of group and the presenter, however typical sessions will involve – another child or adult modelling desired behaviour, rehearsing of appropriate language and phrases, and practice of specific skills e.g turn taking. The activities are chosen based on the age group present, and are usually fun and engaging. Singing, dancing, role playing and games are often used in group time to learn and practice skills. Inappropriate behaviour, such as hitting or non-compliance will be addressed in a sensitive manner, and strategies to overcome these difficult behaviours will be discussed with parents after the session ends. Group leaders will take notes and provide feedback to families, as well as discuss ideas for reinforcing learnt skills at home. Groups typically run in blocks, e.g 1 morning per week for 6 – 8 weeks.
Why choose group therapy sessions instead of one-on-one?
Social skills are best learnt when the child has the opportunity to see them in action. Through social skills groups, kids can test their newfound skills in a safe and non-threatening environment. They can receive support to initiate conversations and can be helped with joining in – if they want. For help with school readiness and for transitioning into childcare settings, group therapy is best for social skills training.
How do I know which group is right for my child?
When you become familiar with the groups in your area, find out who is running them. Opt for experience and good qualifications. Ask for reviews or feedback from other parents. Find out more about the location and decide whether your child will be comfortable there. Ask about fees. What do you get for your money? Think about cost of sessions vs cost of one-on-one therapy and decide if you are receiving good value. Ask about outcome measures, and how you can expect to receive feedback. Find out if you are allowed in the room and can you be involved. If the answer is no, ask why. Don’t be afraid to ask if there is evidence supporting the strategies used within the sessions or if the program has supporting evidence. Ask if you can try one session before committing to the full series.
Gateway Therapies will be running social skills therapy groups in Term 1 2014 at Toombul, North Brisbane. Click here to find out more and register your interest.