What We Do

Mission

Our mission is to provide children with an opportunity outside of school hours to learn and practice social skills with their peers.

Goals

  • Helping children develop stronger social skills
  • Giving children the opportunity to meet and make friends
  • Teaching them how to grow and maintain friendships
  • Reducing the sense of loneliness and frustration in children who struggle socially
  • Increasing their self-confidence with peers
  • Helping children to have a more fulfilling and happier childhood

The Program

Friends Grow Friends Foundation, Inc. social skills groups will run for one 60 minute session per week after school.  Structured virtual groups are also available to accommodate safety restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as serve children who are not local to Monmouth County.

The program is open to children with mild to moderate special needs that are in grades Pre-K-10, and have social skills deficits.  Additionally, children with no special needs but who may need to refine their social skills are also encouraged to register.

In all sessions, we will work on:

  • Verbal and non-verbal communication skills
  • Initiating play/interaction
  • Making friends and nurturing friendships
  • Flexible thinking
  • Conflict resolution
  • Frustration management strategies
  • Program customized to participants’ needs

Our groups are facilitated by behavioral specialists and the program is overseen by our Clinical Services Supervisor who is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst as well as holding a Masters in Education degree. We focus on building social skills through different activities that include, but are not limited to:

  • typical playdate activities
  • cooperative building
  • recess games
  • sports
  • mock birthday parties
  • community-based activities including but not limited to art classes, Lego workshops, trips to the park, shopping, eating at a restaurant, community service projects and more

Other highlights of the program include:

  • Low child to instructor ratio, plus additional volunteers onsite
  • Programming developed collectively by a BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst), Child Psychologist, behavioral therapists, parents, and teachers
  • Utilization of peer models
    • Socially proficient children will participate in the program in order to provide strong examples of appropriate play, expected behavior, and communication
  • Each program session will be customized to participants’ needs which will be determined through client intake process
  • Weekly recaps and mini progress reports sent to families (in-person sessions only)
  • Recommendations will be provided to families to carry through at home
  • Consultations with Kristin Foley, M.Ed, BCBA (free of charge) offered during some of our 6-week sessions

Sessions

Community Sessions

  • Sessions take place out in the community
  • Sample sessions include trips to the park for kickball and wiffle ball, Bricks for Kidz workshops, eating in a restaurant, mindfulness/meditation classes, art classes, grocery shopping scavenger hunts, Yestercades, Chocolate Works, and more

Sports and Recess Sessions

  • Popular sports such as soccer and basketball, as well as popular recess games.
  • Children will learn basic skills and appropriate play/interaction, while focusing on teamwork, building strong communication skills, resolving conflict, and practicing good sportsmanship

In one study, elementary school students who received explicit instruction in good sportsmanship showed greater leadership and conflict-resolution skills than did their control group peers (Sharpe et al 1995).

Cooperative Building Sessions

  • Cooperative building with Legos and K’nex
  • Children will learn appropriate interaction, turn-taking, and cooperation within their building team.
  • Children will be placed in groups of 2-3 and each child will perform a different role while building, and the roles will be rotated.
  • Conversation skills will be addressed during a task which can cause many children to hyper-focus.
In one study of patients with high-functioning autism and Asperger’s syndrome, school children attended a one hour session of group construction play once a week for 18 weeks. Compared with kids given special training in the social use of language, the kids in the construction group showed greater improvement in their social interactions (Owens et al 2008). Other research indicates that the benefits of these experiences last for years (Legoff and Sherman 2006)

Mock Playdate Sessions

Activities

  • Children will learn appropriate play/interaction and strategies to utilize when frustrated during peer interaction, as well as practice flexibility.
  • Children will learn how to negotiate and utilize an activity schedule, and how to transition to/from activities.
  • Children will also practice conversation skills, manners, and snack time etiquette

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