New Georgetown social skills group helps children with autism
The Georgetown Times - 10/24/2017
Helping a friend carry books, taking turns during a game of Jenga and commenting on shots taken during a ball-and-basket game are all activities designed for a new S.O.S. Healthcare Social Skills Group in Georgetown.
Working with children ages 6-12 who need extra help with orienting to people in a social environment, managing emotions and using interpersonal skills, the group was made possible by a grant from the Frances P. Bunnelle Foundation. It meets each Tuesday from 3 to 4 p.m. in a classroom at the J.B. Beck Administration Building in Georgetown.
Program Coordinator Adam Law, who is a consultant and lead therapist with S.O.S. Healthcare, said he is hoping to attract more students to the group.
“We want to have a full group of 10 students who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, or have another specific need,” he said. “With all of the different levels of autism, participants have to be able to communicate vocally and have low behavior problems.”
He said the group focuses on learning by modeling, role play, feedback and shaping. Some of the topics of learning are classroom-survival skills, friendship-making skills, skills for dealing with feelings and skills for dealing with stress.
Law gave the example of teaching about the topic of listening by modeling it, then students practice instances of listening, both good and bad.
“They give feedback to each other, like what is good about it and what needs to be improved,” he said. “Then we play games that involve listening skills, such as Simon Says.”
He said he likes to switch up the rules a little bit, asking students to do as he says, not as he does.
“I don’t want the kids to know we are in a social group,” Law said. “So, do a little work and have a lot of fun.”
Two mothers of students currently in the group said it is a great opportunity for their kids to learn about social skills. Latoya Goodson, mother of William Goodson, 7, said she likes that the program focuses on skills some people take for granted.
“Social skills are the biggest barrier in an autistic child’s life,” she said. “Being able to practice identifying social cues and acting on them is very important.”
Goodson, who is principal of Rosemary Middle School in Andrews, and her husband, Wayne, who is a music teacher at Andrews Elementary School, live in Andrews. William is their only child.
Elisa Mullan, mother of Sean Mullan, 11, agreed. She and her husband, Steven, live in Pawleys Island and Sean is their only child.
“Sean likes to be alone and he doesn’t want to have conversations with other kids,” she said. “He likes friendship, but he has trouble with appropriate play. This group gives him an opportunity to interact with other kids and learn skills you need when you go out into the world.”
Both mothers said they would like to see more children participate in the group.
“Being an educator, I know there are several students in each school who are autistic,” Goodson said. “I would urge any parent of a student that qualifies to take part in this important program.”
Mullan said Sean enjoys being part of the group and she knows others would, too.
“After the very first meeting, he was very happy and wanted to go back,” she said. “He looks forward to going each week.”
Parents who would like more information about the program, including criteria for enrollment, can contact Diane Owens by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or Adam Law at email@example.com.