TDS social skills groups are offered to students ages 2-14. We take great care, through our individualized intake process, to group students based on age and level of needs. Our curricula include the Acting with Purpose social emotional learning program developed in our TDS clinics, TDS designed behavioral supports and modifications, structured practice for conversation and discussion, and integrated mindfulness exercises. All activities are led by TDS staff and supported by trained peer mentors.
Working closely with families, we tailor each groups’ plans to the developing needs of the students. Offering three 10-12 week after-school sessions per year and a number of summer programs ranging from one to seven weeks, we strive to meet our students where they are. Theater games, functional conversational practice, and project based learning build skills in perspective taking, collaboration, flexibility and compromise.
Social Skills Groups (ages 2 - 14)
Social Coaching for Teens and Young Adults
While a number of adolescents and young adults can benefit from group based social skills instruction, we find it beneficial to provide functional, community based opportunities to practice what we call Social Coaching. While still providing the necessary modified instruction as well as visual and technological supports, these programs use terminology, community engagement and projects that appeal to the growing sense of maturity, individual identity and desire for agency our older teens and young adults hold dear.
From students who need some moderate support to gain the skills for an independent adulthood to clients who need ongoing functional support in pursuit of a life of dignity and active contribution to society, each member of the TDS community finds a place in our range of programs. Activities include communal art projects, planning and executing public events like karaoke night or collaboration with local non-profit fund raisers, and negotiating outings that challenge groups members to embrace a sense of adventure and social risk taking. Other sessions prioritize functional skills of independent living.
All programs for older teens and young adults are designed in response to the particular needs of each group. One constant in these programs is the particular value of our trained peer mentors. At this time in their lives, our students find special and deeply moving connections in the opportunity to build trust and friendships with kids their own age. The collaborative problem solving, practice with risk taking, and easing of worries about such things as dating, social media and the social dynamics of school are inspirational to see. The work of our mentors keeps us all closely tied to our mission of "Being the change" we wish to see in the world.
The Summer Social Coaching Program at TDS is a seven-week program that takes a practical approach to learning the skills necessary for understanding and operating within common social situations. This program has a strong mentor emphasis, which utilizes trained peer mentors to support and encourage the students through activities to ensure a successful social and educational outcome. The mentors work with the students to increase their awareness of how to navigate more independently in social situations they may encounter in the real world.
Small groups of students and peer mentors will spend two successive afternoons together each week. A strong emphasis will be placed on the group process and joint decision-making as a way of creating a collaborative environment. Day one focuses on vocational engagement. Teens gain work experience and learn about social expectations when working that differ from school based social opportunities. An array of community based vocational experiences are available at TDS and students will have the chance to interview for the position that interests them most. Once placed, students will set personal goals that they will revisit throughout the summer, complete tasks outlined in their job descriptions, report to supervisors, practice professional communication (emails, phone calls, etc.), collaborate with peers and follow timelines set out for each job. Upon completion of their project/job, students will participate in an "exit" interview and receive a letter of recommendation based on the quality of their performance.
On Day One, students will also prepare for an outing (Day Two) by discussing the steps involved, planning each specific activity, negotiating choices with peers in the group and role playing scenarios that they may encounter on the outing day.
Day two is spent on a community outing where students arebe able to put into practice the skills and plans they had developed together. Social skills and peer relations are consistently explored and practiced within this supportive and student/mentor-generated time.
Some outings from past summers have included: dining in the community, shopping for groceries, cooking a group planned meal, visiting local museums, attending a play at the Majestic Theatre, shopping, and volunteering with various local organizations.
Throughout each week we consistently integrate vocabulary related to perspective taking, personal responsibility, problem solving, and self reflection.