While each group is tailored to fit the particular children who are participating in the group, each Friendship Group is generally broken out into short activities. A typical one-hour group will look something like this:
- Check-in and snack (10 to 5 minutes): This is a time for each child to share about him or herself, participate in show and tell, and ask questions. Children and staff discuss and process any questions and issues that arise.
- Group project or activity (30 to 40 minutes): The children work on a creative project or engage in an activity tied to the social skills theme.
- Check-out and adding up points to earn a prize (10 to 15 minutes): Each child shares one thing he or she liked and one thing he or she did not like about the group and compliments another group member about something they did well during the group. A child must earn at least ten points to receive a prize.
Positive Reinforcement System
The Friendship Groups utilize a positive reinforcement system to support each child’s individual goals and the group’s overall goals. The facilitators encourage each child to focus on the following behaviors, rewarding these behaviors when exhibited during the group:
- SAFETY: Be safe with self and others. The children are taught to respect others’ physical boundaries (for example, to use words to express themselves rather than grabbing, pushing, or hitting). This includes staying in their own personal space and being aware of their bodies during activities so that there is no physical conflict (for example, pushing, hitting, or threatening looks).
- FRIENDLY: Be friendly and cooperative. The facilitators reward the children for positively contributing to the group experience. This includes raising hands to ask questions, not interrupting, sharing about oneself, sharing materials, communicating feelings without putting down another child or adult, and supporting others and the group.
- ON-TOPIC: Stay on-topic. The children are encouraged to listen and respond to the topic or activity at hand, which includes staying focused on the group activity or conversation, tracking the topic at hand, following directions, and participating in the group activity.
Group members earn positive points for showing awareness of the above behaviors throughout the group. The focus is on each child’s positive strides and their response to being redirected when getting off track. This system is designed to foster self-esteem and make each child feel successful in learning new social and coping skills.
To help each child continue to practice these behaviors outside of the group environment, we recommend that parents use the above terms to prompt and reward their child at home and at school (SAFE, FRIENDLY, ON-TOPIC).
Weekly Social Skills Themes
Each week, the children focus on different social skills themes. Various modalities are incorporated into the group setting including drama, visual arts, music, movement, and verbal discussion. The focus of communication style is non-violent communication. Which involves reinforcing each person in taking complete responsibility for expressing his or her needs without putting down another person. A typical ten-week program looks something like this:
- WEEK 1: Introduction: meet the group members and review group structure and rules
- WEEK 2: Active listening (eye contact, mirroring, body boundaries, on-topic communication)
- WEEK 3: Sharing (compromise, recognizing and communicating needs)
- WEEK 4: Expressing emotions and feelings to self and others
- WEEK 5: Anger (verbal and non-verbal communication, self-tracking, healthy expression)
- WEEK 6: Disagreements (conflict resolution, negotiation, dealing with bullies, emotional expression)
- WEEK 7: Conversation (initiating, listening, feedback)
- WEEK 8: Body Boundaries (permission, distraction of self or others, self-soothing)
- WEEK 9: Self-esteem
- WEEK 10: Closure: say “goodbye” and review group experience
Parenting Workshops focus on teaching parents strategies in parenting a variety of issues in the home and in the school. The focus is on positive reinforcement for the child or children that involve incentives and consequences that are motivating for each child. These workshops provide practical and specific programs which can be implemented on a daily basis. The framework taught in these workshops gives each parent an individualized parenting plan that can be used and tailored to meet the needs of each unique family throughout their child’s childhood.
Educational Workshops focus on assisting teachers and staff in schools to support each child in meeting their educational goals with the development and implementation of social, emotional and behavioral interventions. Specific strategies are taught based on the specific needs of a particular classroom.
Social Skills Training for interns and other professionals interested in promoting social skills reinforcement for children and teens. These workshops provide specific frameworks for care providers to implement in various settings.
Dance and movement therapy workshops. Incorporating music, movement and a variety of exercises to support body self-esteem and physical confidence. These workshops utilize a variety of movement exercises which support individual confidence, dyad work and group work. Most communication is non-verbal and this format allows children and teens to learn ways to hold themselves physically, with more confidence and awareness.