Learning to have fun with friends
Seven year old Steve* loves building things and computers, but has struggled to make friends and maintain friendships.
Steve’s horizons broadened after he participated in Windermere’s Fun with Friends program.
The group based program supports primary school age children to develop social skills and strategies to regulate their emotions. This includes learning how to initiate playing with others, take turns and problem solve when things go wrong.
“The program is for children who have delays in their language and social skills and would find it difficult to learn these in a larger group setting. They need to explicitly practice and be shown how to develop these skills,” says Ricky, Occupational Therapist and Fun with Friends Coordinator.
Initially Steve was extremely apprehensive about attending the program and was requiring one on one support for up to twenty minutes to settle into a session. By the third session his outlook had changed, he was more comfortable attending and even began to look forward to sessions.
Gradually, over the weekly group sessions Steve was taught ways to more confidently interact with others.
The program also involved Steve’s mother so she could continue to support Steve to practice and reflect on his new skills.
Fun with Friends is structured according to the needs and interests of the children in the group. It includes intentional teaching activities that enable the children to practice social interactions within a play-based setting. These might be a social activity or a board game.
“We have a routine for each session. This includes a visual schedule so the children know what to expect. We start by sitting on the mat and greeting each other, and discuss how their day is going. It’s all about practicing social communication in a safe, fun setting,” says Ricky.
Gross motor activities, such as an obstacle course, as well as calming activities, are also incorporated into the sessions.
Steve has now gained the confidence to participate in a different social group.
“He recently saw me out of the group session and came up and greeted me. That was a huge leap forward for him, as it is actually a complex skill to recognise and greet someone by name in a different setting,” says Ricky.
*Details have been changed to protect privacy.