Social Skills at the Secondary Level of Schools
Today, I am going to write a post on how one of the high schools near me and my junior high incorporated social groups into their special education programs. This is a growing area of service provided by speech language pathologists and I personally think it is one of the hardest areas to plan.
First, I will talk about Lunch Buzz!
One of the speech pathologists in my school district started a social group called "Lunch Buzz" at her high school. I wanted to bring focus to it because IT'S AWESOME and when I say "it's awesome, IT'S AWESOME".
This is the mission statement: Enhance student’s social communication skills in the school environment with assistance from peer mentors.
1.) Mentors assist in developing social skills / social communication, role modeling, and developing friendships.
2.) Have fun with peers while practicing social skills.
3.) Eat good food!
4.) Always Practice confidentiality.
We will be focusing on the following areas during lunch buzz:
2. Initiating conversations
3. Maintaining a conversational topic
4. Asking/answering topic related questions
5. Making comments in a conversation
6. Interpreting reactions (facial expressions/body language)
7. Using/understanding figurative language/humor
8. Positive Reminders (over-focus on favorite subject, appropriate eye contact, appropriate reactions, facial expressions, body language, etc….)
9. Perspective Taking
There is a group of high school kids in her school that are a part of the FUSE program. FUSE is a program that stands for Freshman Utilizing Senior Experience. You might have a similar program at your school like National Honors Society. These kids are very involved in many aspects of the school, but today I am going to focus on how they are utilized in the "Lunch Buzz" program. There are typically developing students that are involved in the FUSE program that volunteer to be trained for this program. The first year this program was in effect, the FUSE students were only trained on how to model and demonstrate the social skill that was targeted that week. Here is how my friend introduces the program (I did not use the real school name on purpose):
"We are very excited to offer a voluntary social skills group at Porter High School! Lunch Buzz targets social communication skill development for our students on the autism spectrum or students with needs in this area. The Lunch Buzz group meets twice monthly offering fun, pizza, social skills practice, and interactions with trained student peers from the FUSE program".
So this is how it works: twice a month, students that are on the autism spectrum or have difficulties with social language meet in a separate location for lunch with a group of typically developing peers (the FUSE students). For the first group of the month pizza is provided for all of the students participating. This money comes from the special education teacher who donates the vending machine money to fund the pizzas each month. The second monthly meeting the students bring their own sack lunch from home. During the session, a social skill is taught. The FUSE students model the social skill and all of the students practice that particular skill during the lunch!
Now that the program is in its 3rd year at the high school, the speech pathologist and teacher have decided to let the students from the FUSE program lead the entire session. The FUSE students teach the lesson, introduce the social skill and help model the social skill during the lunch session.
It has been said the students who volunteer from the FUSE program are future speech pathologists, future psychologists and future special education teachers since they do SUCH a great job!
The second program I will speak about is “Book Club”
At my junior high, there is a program that we began just this year! All of the students in our school are required to read for 20 minutes a day during the school day. The classes take turns giving up some of the their teaching time for this to happen. The students with disabilities were missing out since many of them had trouble reading or could not read at all. This had to be fixed! Our wonderful media specialist came up with the idea of book club! Every week, students can volunteer to be a book buddy with one of our students with disabilities. The book buddy brings a selection of picture books or reading books from the library and reads each book to the student with disabilities. Often there is a teacher/SLP/special education teacher that helps with communication between the two students.
This has been a very helpful way to introduce and mix the students of the general population and the students with disabilities. Both groups have an enjoyable time and both benefit. It is so neat to see the students form friendships and see exchanges in the hallways that were not seen before! Most of the time, the students who volunteer to be a book buddy continue to volunteer because it is so enjoyable to them! During this reading time, we help the students with social skills for both the regular educations students and the students with disabilities. Patience and understanding is learned by the students in the regular education program and more basic social skills are targeted with the students with disabilities.
Both of these programs introduce skills necessary to be an involved student and overall teach tolerance in ways that society in general needs. We have seen a big change in both school’s sense of “community” and that is the way we like to see changes in our schools.
What are some of the ways that you do social language intervention or therapy for students who have social skill deficits? I hope you all get inspired to create a program of your own!
Here is an activity I put together that targets social skills that you might be interested in: