What and How Can Social Skills Groups Help Your Child
Parenting is not an easy task in life, and having children that struggle socializing with their peers can make the childhood years extremely difficult for both the parent and the child. Social skills are necessary for the child to create friends, succeed in school, and prepare for adult life. Children who battle with autism, attention deficit disorder, or other neurological disorders can see amazing benefits from Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA, therapy. ABA Therapy can be used in social skill groups, assisting your child to communicate appropriately with others, while making friends.
What are Social Skills Groups?
Social skills groups are regularly scheduled times when a small group of children, around the same age, meet with a trained therapist from an ABA therapy agency. The therapist will use role-play, games, field trips, and other exercises that will help the children learn how to properly interact in different situations. Children will get to learn how to read body language, experience different word tones, and learn to cope with conflicts appropriately. The most important part of social skills groups is that all of this learning is done while having fun and it not being obvious that is being taught.
How Social Skills Groups Work
Many parents wonder how social skills groups can be an effective treatment for children on the spectrum since children are often in school put in the similar situations. The biggest answer is due to the fact that the group has a defined purpose and vision that is worked on, all while children get to participate in fun activities. The therapists will not only demonstrate a common situation the children will encounter in life, but also how to appropriately behave in that situation and can assess each child on how well they are handling each stressor. This is a great way for children to learn how to behave, how to maintain eye contact while interacting with others, and even how to greet other people. Unlike school settings, each child will receive direct reinforcement and encouragement on when they behave appropriately. More importantly, the trained therapists will know when a child is reaching his or her limits on handling the different stressors.
How to Know if Social Skills Groups are Right for You
Honestly, children with or without a neurological diagnosis will benefit from being in social situations. Children who benefit the most from these specific group setups though are the children who are not developing their social skills and are not meeting target milestones for their age. This could lead to increased aggression in children, as they are not able to effectively communicate with their peers. That is not to say that all groups are effective. It is vital that when you are in search for a group, you find one that has a small group of children at each meeting and is run by a certified, licensed ABA therapist. All of the children in the group should be close in age and near the same level developmentally. This will allow the therapist to cater the curriculum to best meet the needs of all the children involved.
Finding the Perfect Group
Once you have decided that an ABA run social skills group is the best solution for your child, you will want to find the perfect group for the most success. The best place to start is talking to your insurance company to find out what their requirements are to cover the costs, or if it is covered by your insurance at all. While not all insurance providers cover this type of therapy, many organizations will have payment methods to make it possible for your child to still be involved. After you have talked to your insurance provider, involve your child’s therapists or counselors from the school to find organizations they may already know about. You should always be ready to ask questions, especially of the instructor. The leader of the group should be able to tell you how they form the groups, what curriculum they follow, and want to meet you for a private interview prior to acceptance into the group. This interview will let the therapist know more about your child, as well as prepare the current group for any changes that will take place. If the other children do not interact well with your child, your child will be less likely to want to come to the group meetings. This step is important for all involved.
The instructor should also be able to fully explain the curriculum to you. Questions you will want to have answered include knowing the step-by-step methods for skills, what types of reinforcement they use, as well as how they handle meltdowns or poor responses. An ABA therapist should have no problem telling you where he or she was trained, and how many years he or she has worked in the field. Finally, a good group will have constant communication with you about what they have accomplished in a group that day and what to work on until the next group meeting. Some of the things they will want you to do in between meetings include requiring your child to maintain eye contact when talking to you, practice taking turns, singing songs, and creating role-play situations at home through modeling appropriate behavior.
Social skills not only include being able to talk to others and play well with their peers, but also being able to complete tasks, maintain attention on a task, regulate emotions, as well as understanding body language. Children who do not make eye contact, struggle with understanding or using body language, misinterpreting others, or even be able to take turns will continue to have problems in life and struggle holding jobs. If you notice that your child simply does not want to go to social events, prefers to play by themselves, and struggles academically, then working on social skills is likely going to benefit. Social skills groups are just an added benefit to in-home ABA therapy and should be used with other therapy services for your child’s diagnosis.