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Social Skills Program for Teens At Georgia State

The PEERS® Curriculum is a 16-week evidence-based social skills intervention for motivated teens (ages 14-17), who are interested in learning new ways of making and keeping friends. The curriculum is broken down into clearly divided lesson plans with concrete rules and steps, corresponding homework assignments, and fun socialization activities to ensure that teens practice what they’ve learned. Parents are provided handouts that will help assist their teen in making and keeping friends, as well as information about how to support their teen, as they complete their weekly socialization homework assignments. PEERS® may be appropriate for teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, Anxiety, Depression or other social and behavioral disorders.

The Center for Leadership in Disability, at Georgia State University, has five Certified School-based Providers, all of whom have been trained by the PEERS® clinic at UCLA. The team will be offering a PEERS group this fall. The group will meet weekly and cost $1000 per person.

If you are interested in learning more about the upcoming group, please contact Molly Tucker at mtucker17@gsu.edu. She will provide you with information about the intake process, which consists of an application, as well as a video interview with your son or daughter. During the interview, we will be assessing for the teen’s interest in learning how to make and keep friends, as the program relies heavily on self-motivation. The next group will run from September 10-December 17, 2019 and will meet on Tuesday evenings from 6-7:30 pm.

Teens will learn how to:

  • Use appropriate conversational skills
  • Find common interests by trading information
  • Join a conversation between peers
  • Use appropriate humor
  • Handle rumors and gossip
  • Be a good host during get-togethers
  • Be a good sport
  • Handle arguments and disagreements
  • Change a bad reputation
  • Handle rejection, teasing and bullying

To apply for the group, please complete the following form: PEERS Application.

Summer Schedules

Summer break will be here for our students before we know it, and one of the frequent questions I get from parents is “How do I keep them on a regular schedule at home?” Well, guess what? Those amazing visual schedules we use in the classroom can be just as helpful at home!

Of course, it is summer and our students deserve a break from academics. But it doesn’t hurt to send home a schedule that is similar to the one you use in your classroom to tide over your students during those extended breaks. Schedules can even include when the children will be eating lunch or have a doctor’s appointment.

Just as we adults rely on our iPhone reminders and Outlook calendars to remind us of important appointments during our days and weeks, the students we work with depend on schedules, too. If you have a student who greatly benefits from a visual schedule, definitely talk to his or her parent to create a summer visual schedule. Or you can check out Pinterest for lots of amazing examples that parents can implement at home — they may even decide to keep the schedules alive year-round!

I’ve got the power cards!

Sometimes when I am having a hard day at work, I think to myself “What would Beyonce do?” To me, Beyonce just has everything together and can navigate any stressful situation flawlessly! I just picture her knocking out some emails and making those tough phone calls without even having a spike in anxiety.

Now imagine how some of our students with autism feel when they deal with potential stressors. Luckily for us, kids with autism typically have that ONE THING that they are obsessed with, like “Pokemon” or dinosaurs — maybe even Beyonce! When these potential stressful situations are predictable, that is when power cards can be super impactful.

Power cards are a visual strategy that uses a child’s special interest or favorite character, celebrity or person to help make sense of social situations, routines, the meaning of language and the unwritten social rules. 

For example, maybe a child you are working with is having difficulty with bedtime routines at home. If this particular child is obsessed with firemen, then having mom review the card with the student to prep him for bedtime can help ease that time period. The child should always have the card in his vicinity. After a while, the recitation of the card should be faded back and the child should use the card as needed.

Fireman Steve

This strategy is also effective for social skills!

Try this amazing strategy with some of the students in your life. A free template is available here

Got some new acronyms for you — FSSA and VSSA

The GABSI teams across Georgia had a blast presenting at all of our sites this past October. It was awesome to collaborate, discuss our kids, and have some fun with all of the hard-working teachers out there.
Thanks to the Georgia Department of Education, each participant at our 5 sites received a copy of the book “Teaching Students With Classic Autism Functional Social Skills in Natural Settings: A Program Based on Individualized Comprehensive Assessment and Evidence-Based Practices” by S. J. Sheridan and D. E. Bahme. This spectacular resource included a tool called the Functional Social Skills Assessment. This assessment allows teachers to rank students in the following areas:
  • Ability to communicate effectively with communication partner
  • Understanding of the concept of friendship
  • Environmental regulation skills
  • Individual impulse control
  • Manners
  • Personal responsibility
  • Problem-solving strategies
  • Play skills
  • Reads, interprets and responds to social cues
  • Self-advocacy skills
  • Transitions
  • Willingness to do non-preferred things
After the assessment is complete, users can complete a Visual Social Skills Assessment using the information from the FSSA. By using colors that correspond to the areas of acquisition, fluency, maintenance, and generalization, this tool allows you to visually see the social skills areas where your student has room for growth. Check out the example of the VSSA below … with blue being acquisition, which areas do you think this student has room to grow in?
So you have this cool visual? What’s next? Well, the book “Teaching Students With Classic Autism Functional Social Skills in Natural Settings” has strategies for EACH of these areas. What’s even more awesome is that after you implement these strategies, you can complete the FSSA and VSSA again and can have some killer visual data for parents during IEP meetings.
Want to check out this great resource? It is currently available on Amazon