Social Skills Group Therapy at LET’S TALK
Last term, LET’S TALK piloted a social skills group for children. The group had four interested participants -all boys aged 4-6 years. The boys all had a diagnosis of high-functioning ASD and difficulties in areas such as body language, conversation skills and making friends.
The group was very much individualised. Parents were asked to complete a questionnaire outlining their child’s strengths and difficulties. A therapy plan for six weeks was then designed to target areas of difficulty for each participant. The boys attended weekly one-hour sessions, where they got to know each other, played games, learned songs and dances, all while developing their social skills.
The group is based on the Talkabout program by UK speech pathologist, Alex Kelly. Alex’s program focuses on clear unambiguous rules about social communication, modelling of desired behaviour and scaffolding and support to help children effect these desired behaviours – this ranges from using eye contact and showing that you’re listening to saying sorry or refusing in an assertive manner. Alex emphasises the importance of providing an example as children with ASD are often more visual learners. Puppets were often used to do this.
The group was named by the boys – quite aptly, the “Cool Boys Club”. It was important that the boys felt a sense of ownership in the group, as it was their place to achieve their goals. Every session started with hellos and we ran through our schedule. First, everyone shared how they were feeling and the boys were supported to identify how their feelings might affect that day’s session. This part of the session was supplemented by the Autism Express iPad app – which includes delightful feelings like gassy and sneezy and always proved to get a giggle. We then ran through our body language rules:
- Good Bodies
- Good Eyes
- Good Faces
- Good Space
What does a good body look like? It means sitting up straight and facing the speaker. Four simple rules that encapsulate some complex social behaviours These rules were explored with the boys throughout the six weeks through modelling, games and roleplay. After social skills were explicitly taught and practiced, opportunities were created at the end of the sessions for the boys to use their practiced skills. Areas targeted included body language, starting conversations, listening skills and asking and answering questions.
Songs from the CD ‘Say G’day’ by Occupational Therapist, Gen Jereb’s were played throughout sessions to help the boys stay alert and regulated. I cannot speak highly enough of the benefit of taking breaks to sing a song and do a silly dance. The boys are pictured singing my favourite song “Bananas.” We start by peeling bananas, then eating bananas, then going bananas.
After six weeks, the group broke up for school holidays and parents were provided with a progress report, as well as resources and strategies to use at home. The group received really positive feedback and all four boys enrolled for the 10 week Term 3 group which is now underway.
If you are interested in enrolling your child in a social skills group, please contact LET’S TALK clinic on 07 3891 9111. Groups are planned on a term to term basis and depend on levels of interest. Groups are determined based on age of participants and areas of difficulty.
Speech Language Pathologist