social skills groups

How Social Skills Groups Help Children With Disabilities & Delays

Social skills groups can be an invaluable tool for children who are developmentally delayed or struggle with social and communication skills. It’s particularly valuable for children on the autism spectrum, but can also be pivotal for children, teens, and young adults with conditions like Down syndrome, ADHD, and cognitive disabilities.

“So many of our patients benefit from our social groups because social skills are essential life skills,” explained Brecksville’s Therapy & Wellness Connection Owner & Founder Jaclyn McClymont. “We offer social skills groups that vary by age and developmental level, each targeting different sets of skills, from understanding and expressing basic emotions to self regulation and anger management to coping with bullying and informed use of technology.”

There is extensive evidence that social skills groups are incredibly effective in helping kids and adolescents make substantial strides with social communication – particularly when those facilitating are trained and experienced. (All of our social skills groups are facilitated by licensed speech, occupational, and ABA therapists.) In the biggest study of PEERS (the Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills for young adults), researchers evaluated participants and non-participants before and after the 16-week social group session. Participants had “significantly greater improvements” in things like frequency of social engagement and improvement of overall social skills as opposed to those on the waiting list. There was also a substantial decrease in certain symptoms of autism spectrum disorder related to social responsiveness.

Social skills are about much more than just communicating with others. They are critical to establishing friendships, succeeding in school, and (later in life) getting and keeping a job.

Among the skills our social skills groups target:

  • Turn-taking
  • Being flexible
  • Problem-solving
  • Negotiating
  • Considering the perspectives of others
  • Listening to others
  • Initiating and/or joining play
  • Age appropriate play
  • Coping with confrontation, rejection or teasing
  • Verbal communication
  • Confidence-building
  • Staying on task
  • Following directions
  • Asking for help
  • Evaluating the size of a problem
  • Understanding non-literal language and concepts

Learning to read non-verbal social cues such as facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice are often incorporated as well.

Most of our groups are relatively small (groups of 2-8), facilitated by a therapist. There is typically some instruction, possibly some role-play or a fun activity to encourage social interaction. Participants get feedback (and parents may be looped in as well) to help them practice the skills they most need to work on. Face-to-face interactions and practice in a safe environment help the lessons to stick.

We have a core group of regular social groups that we routinely offer, and we’ll also introduce new groups, depending on the need. Some of those we regularly hold are:
  • Literacy & Language group for kids with speech & language disorders, particularly those preparing for kindergarten.
  • OT group helps kids with social interactions, self regulation and certain life skills, such as cooking. This one is great for older kids and teens, and it incorporates lots of games, projects, and field trips.
  • Say & Play, which focuses on how to make speech sounds, follow directions, and engage in a group setting. This is a fun one for small children, with a heavy focus on crafts, songs, books, and games.

We also have courses on building friendships, problem solving, getting along, social boundaries, technology, and more.

If you have questions about our social groups, our dedicated pediatric therapy team is happy to help answer your questions and help you sign up & join the fun!

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – is a pediatric therapy center providing occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy and ABA/behavior therapy to children in Northeast Ohio. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email. Serving Brecksville, Akron, Cleveland and surrounding communities in Northeast Ohio.

Additional Resources:

Evidence-Based Practice Brief: Social Skills Groups, National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders

More Blog Entries:

How Brecksville Homeschooling Can Benefit Kids With Special Needs, Nov. 6, 2021, Brecksville Pediatric Therapy Center Blog