Every term holidays Connecting Together Occupational Therapy runs a holiday programme for Social skills and emotional regulation, an intensive across 3 or 4 days. Each time we have run this event the feedback has been that it is not long enough.
Connecting Together first established this group after working in Child and Adolescent mental health service in Counties Manukau and saw that social skills was an area of need and support for tamariki and Whānau . I created a proposal and took this to my work manager, however they said it could not be run. After much deliberating with management the final say was that our roles as case managers was to gather the information, book the child in the appropriate assessment, write a report and discharge, and due to the demand we could not run any groups. I held on to the proposal for years.
After beginning Connecting Together in 2018, I had determined that a value of ours would be to remain community focused, and still this is true today. We have since run Socially Together 6 times across the last 3-4 years (however COVID stalled this for a few years).
Each term holidays we try to run this event, advertise it to Pukekohe, Franklin, and South Auckland communities and schools for primary aged students. The group has a minimum of 4 students and a maximum of 10 students, and is typically run by two Occupational Therapists, though at times a Speech Language Therapist SLT may also assist. Over the 3 day group, it may go for 1 hour and a half and focuses on evidence based strategies for Neurodivergent learners, however our group does not target a particular diagnosis, it is open to any child that may need support in making and/or keeping friendships.
The group incorporates movement breaks, it teaches an emotional regulation tool by using it within the learning techniques, the activities are shown visually so each child knows what is expected, a time timer is used to show how long we have to do an activity, the rules are set by the group members together, the children are rewarded for following the rules using group team work and earning gems in a jar, to which at the end they get to choose a prize from the prize box. This is such a motivating way of having the children onboard to the activities and rules set by all.
Typically we see that it is the parents or carers wishes for their child to get support with their social skills, and at times we can have children in the group that may not wish to be there. This is why every parents in registering, tells the therapists about their child’s interests in play or toys, so that these can be incorporated into the activities so the children can have some enjoyment from the event. As it is a holiday programme after all.
The first day is usually about the children settling in, learning the way the programme runs, finding their feet and getting to know one another. On the second day we see the children warm up more, and they come in and talk to one another, and they are more open to participating in the group activities and games. By day three, we typically see the children happy, bubbly and ready to go with the programme, we begin to be able to play a few competitive games but with the kids showing their good sportsmanship skills from learning the day before. The children learn t find things in common with their friends, what makes a good friend, how to resolve conflict and lastly how our emotions play into our actions.
The families go home with tools and resources to set up the emotional regulation programme within their home environment, as this is best practice and evidence based for children learning to self regulate. The parents are welcome to stay for the programme or they can come pick them up after, however we find parents typically stay and they gather so much information around how to support their child’s goals in making friends and supporting their emotions, plus they get a chance to talk to the therapist on any specific queries they have.
I look forward to running the event again in the next school holidays and perhaps expanding this into a clinic group, where we can run the event across 4-6 weeks of supporting the children in their goal areas, as this could mean we get more time to focus and build on the children’s strengths
Contact us if you are interested or have any questions on this group
Connecting Together Ltd.