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Social Communication Groups

Our Social Communication Groups are for children and adolescents, ages 3 and up. These therapy groups offer a safe and fun environment for children and teens to engage with others, try new things, and build social communication skills.

Many children do not have the language they need to engage their peers in play.  They often have difficulty reading the body signals that convey a child’s willingness to engage, or not.  It is difficult for them to know how to initiate a conversation, how to hold another’s interest, and how to show interest in others. Often, these children are called “shy,” and “withdrawn,” but they actually crave being a part of a greater social experience with their peers.

Our Social Communication Groups are for children who struggle to use socially appropriate behavior in their interactions with others.  Social Communication Groups are led by clinicians who have skill and experience in teaching and shaping socially appropriate behavior.  These groups, which may have from two to five children, are created for children with a wide range of skills. Our child-to-staff ratio is 4:1 or better which ensures that everyone receives appropriate support.

Group Ages

Preschool and Early Elementary School Groups
Ages 3 through Grade 2

Participants follow a schedule and routine that each child masters easily so that the harder skills involved in communicating–for example, the rules of a game or how to take turns–can receive therapeutic focus.  The therapist targets specific skills in each sessions. These skills are taught and then practiced with peers through games and activities.  In these groups, children may practice foundational social communication skills, including using appropriate personal space, eye contact, vocal volume, and pausing, while learning the language appropriate to the interaction.  Specific vocabulary and useful phrases are taught through role-play, modeling, and puppetry, especially during games that can be used in other social play situations, such as navigating through an obstacle course with a partner.

Late Elementary, Middle School, and High School Groups
Grades 3 through 12

Collective group decisions are made about projects children wish to engage in and are the responsibility of each participant.  For example, children may decide they want to make smoothies in the next session, and the wheels of planning and anticipating begin to turn, from listing and buying the ingredients to collaboratively preparing them, to sharing in the mechanics of creating a pureed product, to enjoying the smoothie with each other and congratulating each other on the outcome.  Other activities evolve similarly, whether they occur outdoors on walks and scavenger hunts, or inside with board games and puppets. The therapist carefully guides the process in the initial phases of the treatment, and gradually fades her prompts so that the children can act independently, even when conflicts arise.

Children in CSLOT’s older groups are taught the skills needed to assess their own behaviors, sometimes with the assistance of video modeling.  During the debriefing phase of the session, they share their thoughts and opinions on the activity and are helped to explore communication options with their peers.  Skills such as listening, turn-taking, asking questions, and making comments continue to be targeted during this time.

Curriculum and Activities

The curriculum for these groups incorporates aspects of aspects of various programs with other relevant social language activities and discussions.  The clinician leading the group changes and adapts lesson plans based on the needs of the children in the group on a session by session basis.  Games and activities are chosen based on client needs and interests. The following games and activities may be used in a social group.

  • Board games
  • Art and craft activities
  • Baking/Snack activities
  • Birthday/Holiday parties
  • Movie clips
  • Books
  • Show and Tell
  • Motor activities
  • Outdoor activities, such as walks and scavenger hunts
  • Role playing/Play acting
  • Puppet shows
  • Poster making
  • Video making

Group Size and Parent Participation

The size of our Social Communication Groups is between 2 and 5 children.  Parents are encouraged to participate in our groups, especially for our preschool groups. Parents may be used as models or communication partners.

Sample Session Schedule for a Preschool and Early Elementary Group

4:00-4:15 pm Greeting and Theme: During this portion of group, clients practice greeting skills, including using appropriate personal space, eye contact, volume, pausing, and language use. The theme or goal for the group is introduced, for example, “Today- we are practicing whole body listening. What parts of our body do we use for whole body listening…” Visuals, music, pictures, videos, and books are all tools used to support the group in attending and targeting the theme of the session.

4:15-4:30 pm Teaching Activity: The goal is targeted explicitly in the group. This may include teaching specific vocabulary, phrases, identifying picture or video examples, role-playing, songs, etc that explicitly teach the intended goal for the session.

4:30-4:40 pm Play Activity: A play activity is introduced with less structured teaching moments for the goal, but provides more natural moments to implement the skill being taught. For example the group may target whole body listening during a game of pretend play when they are interacting with one another, when participating in an art activity, or when creating an obstacle course in the gym. Therapist targets the natural teaching moments for the goal as they arise during the play activity.

4:40-4:50 pm Debrief: The theme is reviewed and learning moments from the session are reviewed via pictures or videos of the session. Home Program is assigned.

Sample Session Schedule for a Late Elementary or Middle School Group

 4:00-4:15 pm Check-In: During this portion of group, clients practice greeting skills, question- asking, listening, recall and retell, as well as commenting skills with their peers.

4:15-4:20 pm Plan: The plan outlined in the previous group session is reviewed.  Duties or roles of each group member are defined. For example, in the previous session, the group may have decided to make smoothies in the next session. Recipes are chosen and gathering of supplies and ingredients are assigned. In the following week, the group reviews the plan and prepares for the activity.  During this time communication skills such as explaining a play or activity plan to peers is practiced as well as negotiating skills, listening, asking questions, and making suggestions.

4:20-4:40 pm Activity: The therapists steps back and allows the clients to execute their activity or play plan. As natural conflicts arise, clients are first given the opportunity to use past skills taught to negotiate and repair communication breakdowns. The clinician may step in to support clients in getting un-stuck from a non-communicative interaction.

4:40-4:50 pm Debrief and Plan: Thoughts and opinions on the activity are shared among the clients. Again, skills such as listening, turn-taking, asking questions and making comments are skills that can be targeted during this time. The group also sets aside a few minutes to brainstorm on what they’d like to do for the following session.

How to Sign Up

Because the needs of each child vary greatly, we work with you to figure out which group will be best for your child. Call one of our offices and we will be happy to help your family find the right Social Communication Group for your child.