Q: Are you focused on individuals with autism?
We focus on everyone who needs our help. Individuals with autism are simply far more likely to experience difficulties with social skills. Deficits we see include :
- Problems with topic initiation
- Use of repetitive themes
- One-sided conversations
- Difficulty providing relevant information
- Difficulty using humor appropriately
- Changing topics unexpectedly
- Difficulty using and interpreting nonverbal and verbal cues
- Less involvement in social activities
- Limited attempts to interact with peers
- Difficulty understanding the perspective of others
- Difficulty talking about the emotions of themselves and others
Q: What are the consequences of social deficits?
There are many answers to that question and it varies with each individual.
Individuals with social deficits may experience:
- Difficulty making and keeping friends… they have trouble determining which peer group they fit into and who else is in that group
- Social neglect and isolation… they may avoid social situations and/or go unnoticed by their peers
- Peer rejection… this may include ridicule when they attempt to engage others, teasing, bullying and a bad reputation
- Peer conflict… they may have more arguments & difficulty resolving them while maintaining the relationship
- Difficulty dating
- Trouble getting and keeping jobs
Q: Why target friendships?
Because having poor quality friendships… or no friends at all… has its own consequences.
Individuals who struggle to make and keep good friends tend to:
- Experience less companionship and greater loneliness
- Get less help from peers
- Have trouble with all forms of relationships later in life
- Have difficulty dealing with stressful life events
- Experience more symptoms of depression and anxiety
Q: What happens when an individual is rejected?
Peer rejection is one of the strongest predictors of:
- Mental health problems such as depression and anxiety
- Poor academic performance
- Early withdrawal from school
- Juvenile delinquency
- Substance abuse
- Suicidal ideation and attempts
Q: What are the risk factors of peer rejection?
Q: How many teens struggle socially?
One third. It’s a large number!
- 55% of teens are considered socially average
- 15% are considered popular…not necessarily well-liked, just well-known
- 15% are struggling because they have been socially neglected
- 15% are struggling because they have been socially rejected
Q: I know of other social skills programs in the area... in the community and in our schools. Why should I consider your program?
Because it has been proven! As of 2013, there were only five evidence-based social skills programs and only one… ONE… that focused on adolescents. That program was PEERS.
Sadly, there are even fewer that focus on young adults!
PEERS is based on research!
The team at UCLA first looked at what typically-developing, socially-successful individuals did that our struggling clients did not. They developed programs for various age ranges based on those skills and tested them. These are not programs about what therapists think children and young adults do. These are programs that teach ecologically-valid skills… we’ll teach teens to be teens and young adults to be young adults. Clients will learn skills appropriate for their age!
PEERS is based on evidence!
Randomized Controlled Trials are the “gold standard” when it comes to determining if something works. Long before the PEERS programs were available to the public, they were tested in randomized controlled trials at least twice. The fantastic results were then repeated by other, independent third-parties.
- Participants learned critical social skills.
- They learned to make and keep friends.
- They hosted and were invited to more get-togethers.
- Studies also showed decreased rates of anxiety and parent stress.
- Even more impressive? They did even better 1-5 years after it was over!
Q: What makes PEERS different? Why does it work so much better than other programs?
Children with autism and learning disabilities tend to think in very concrete, literal ways. So, the program is concrete and literal. No cartoons, no metaphors. We use specific rules and steps. Everything is broken down.
It includes parents and homework!
When new skills are practiced with other people and in new settings, they are thoroughly learned, generalized and used more often. Homework allows for targeted practice and individualization.
Q: Who will do well in your class?
Those who are motivated to learn and use social skills do tremendously well in PEERS. Motivation is more predictive of success than gender, diagnosis, IQ and language ability.
Q: Why is parent involvement mandatory?
For a skill to become truly learned and used, one must apply the skill in all settings… at home and in the communities are two biggies!
Get-togethers are a major part of friendships!
Where do they happen? Not at school. Not at therapy. At home and in the community!
Who’s at home and in the community? Parents.
When parents learn to become Social Coaches with PEERS, they can prepare their children and young adults for get-togethers, parties, holiday gatherings, etc. If things go awry, they can be stealthy while giving feedback and making suggestions. We’ll show you how.
Q: If PEERS is so great, why have I never heard of it?
This is one of the only programs founded in research and encouraged by ASHA (The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association). It is available in 12 languages and 25 countries, as cross-cultural studies have also proven its effectiveness.
Q: This sounds great, but my child isn't a teenager. Is there something for them?
Unfortunately, research, testing and good programs take time to develop. If interested in these other programs, let us know. As soon as they are available, we’ll give you a call!