Social Skills Matchmaker?

It’s that time of year… the temperature is beginning to fall, school supplies are purchased, kids are settling back into the school routine and the first week of the Fall session of our Social Adventures Group Program has come to a satisfying end.  As the Group Coordinator at Children’s Therapy Associates, I always look forward to August because it means that it is time to form our fall groups.  I think of myself as a bit of a match-maker and it never gets old.  The anticipation, the angst, the hopefulness that new relationships will form; it all kind of takes over for a few weeks.

Each time I meet a new child who is struggling with their peers, my heart breaks a little bit.  Childhood is supposed to be the easy time of life, but for our group kids, that is not always the case.  What comes naturally to so many children, the ability to interpret social nuances, seems to be a just out of reach for our kids.  But I have yet to meet a child who does not want to do the right thing and to have friends like them and want to play with them.

It is not easy being the parents of our kids either.  As parents, we all want our kids to be happy and to have a supportive peer group.  By providing them with a loving home life, we expect that these are the very things that we should be able to take for granted.  But for some kids that is not the case.  What makes the situation even harder for some parents is that teaching these skills is not as easy as teaching the ABC’s and 123’s.

Enter September, a month that has always been synonymous with “new beginnings.”  That is certainly the case for our Social Adventures Groups.  Over the month of August, a wonderful team of therapists and I meet with a number of kids and their parents to get a sense of each child’s strengths and challenges.  Then we spend hours trying to figure out how best to integrate these new kids in with the children who attended groups over the summer and those who are returning from the Spring Session.  Each group is only 3-6 kids, so the mix is very important.  Our hope is always for each child to have opportunities to be a role model for some activities, while learning from peers during others.

And all of this planning leads up to a week like the one that just passed:  a successful first week of group for the Fall Session.  Although the first week can sometimes be a little rocky with kids adjusting to each other and the culture of the group, it is a beginning… hopefully the beginning of friendships not only for the kids, but for their caregivers as well.  Another September, another opportunity for some match-making.  Here’s hoping that some wonderful relationships evolve this year!

by Karen S Head, MS, CCC-SLP 

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