Thursday, December 20, 2012

Thank Goodness for....Social Groups

So today I am thankful for social groups. This is a growing area of service provided by speech language pathologists and I personally think it is one of the hardest areas to plan.

One of the speech pathologists in my school district started a social group called "Lunch Buzz" at her high school. I wanted to bring focus to it because ITS AWESOME and when I say "its awesome, ITS AWESOME".

This is the mission statement: Enhance student’s social communication skills 
in the school environment with assistance from peer mentors

1.) Mentors assist in developing social skills / social communication, role modeling, and developing friendships.
2.) Have fun with peers while practicing social skills.

3.) Eat good food!
4.) Always Practice confidentiality.

    We will be focusing on the following areas during lunch buzz:
1. Greetings/Closings  

2. Initiating conversations
3. Maintaining a conversational topic
4. Asking/answering topic related questions
5. Making comments in a conversation
6. Interpreting reactions (facial expressions/body language)
7. Using/understanding figurative language/humor
8. Positive Reminders (over-focus on favorite subject,  appropriate eye contact,  appropriate reactions,  facial expressions, body language, etc.)
9. Perspective Taking

There is a group of high school kids in her school that are a part of the FUSE program. FUSE is a program that stands for Freshman Utilizing Senior Experience. These kids are very involved in many aspects of the school, but today I am going to focus on how they are utilized in the "Lunch Buzz" program. There are typically developing students that are involved in the FUSE program that volunteer to be trained for this program. The first year this program was in effect, the FUSE students were only trained on how to model and demonstrate the social skill that was targeted that week. Here is how my friend introduces the program: (I did not use the real school name on purpose)

"We are very excited to offer a voluntary social skills group at Lala High School!  Lunch Buzz targets social communication skill development for our students on the autism spectrum or students with needs in this area.  The Lunch Buzz meets twice monthly offering fun, pizza, social skills practice and interactions with trained student peers from FUSE". 

So this is how it works: Twice a month, students that are on the autism spectrum or have difficulties with social language meet in a separate location for lunch with a group of typically developing peers (the FUSE students). The first group of the month pizza is provided for all of the students participating. This money comes from the special education teacher who donates the vending machine money to fund the pizzas each month. The second monthly meeting the students bring their own sack lunch from home. During the session, a social skill is taught. The FUSE students model the social skill and all of the students practice that particular skill during the lunch!   

Now that the program is in it's 3rd year at the high school, the speech pathologist and teacher have decided to let the students from the FUSE program lead the entire session. The FUSE students teach the lesson, introduce the social skill and help model the social skill during the lunch session.

It has been said the the students who volunteer from the FUSE program are future speech pathologists, future psychologists and future special education teachers since they do SUCH a great job! 

I have another social group activity that I will share with you another time. What are some of the ways that you do social language intervention or therapy for students who have social skill deficits? 

In honor of "Thank Goodness for Social Groups Thursday" there is a social activity on my TPT page for you all to grab! 

What Would You Do Or Say Social Skills Activity