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Helping children and youth with LDMH develop self-regulation and problem-solving skills

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Social competence is a complex and interconnected set of knowledge and skills that come naturally to most people but can be a challenge for children with learning disabilities.

In CDI’s Integra Social Competence Group Program, children and youth are matched carefully and placed into small groups, where they meet weekly over the course of 10 weeks to build skills that will enable them to better engage with friends and classmates.

Offered free of charge to families, this group can be an excellent complement to Integra’s individual or family therapy services, especially for children and youth facing significant challenges, as it provides an opportunity for them to practice new skills with their peers.

“Children and youth with learning disabilities and mental health challenges (LDMH) may experience exclusion at school and struggle with making or keeping friends,” says Sarah Glover, Clinical Supervisor with the Integra Program. “Through the Integra Social Competence Group Program, we help participants learn important social skills like how to engage in conversations, tune into others and work together to compromise in difficult situations.”

For Allison (age 11), regulating herself in group settings proved to be a challenge as a result of her ADHD, and her family approached the Integra Program for support.

In addition to receiving individual counselling from a clinician at the Integra Program, Allison attended four consecutive 10-week group sessions as she worked to develop self-regulation skills and a strong sense of self-awareness.

“When we first began working with Allison, she didn’t understand the impact her own behaviour had on a situation,” Sarah Glover says. “She would interrupt her classmates and dominate conversations without realizing and then would become upset when her peers became frustrated. Through Allison’s participation in group, she learned how to not only engage with others but also problem-solve and compromise, all the while making some lasting friendships.”

Since 2013, the Echo Foundation and Ira Gluskin and Maxine Granovsky Gluskin have provided invaluable support by funding a multi-year project to create a user guide for the Integra Social Competence Group Program. Development of the guide has helped CDI enhance delivery of the program and will help us share our expertise with other organizations wishing to support children and youth with learning disabilities and social challenges. We are very grateful for their generosity.

By developing social competencies, children and youth learn an important set of skills they can count on for the rest of their lives. In fact, the success of this group program was recently featured in the Journal of Child and Family Studies, which identified that participants showed significant improvement after taking part in the group (Milligan, K., Phillips, M. & Morgan, A. (2015). Tailoring Social Competence Interventions for Children with Learning Disabilities. Journal of Child and Family Studies. 25(3), 856-859).

An ambitious research project is currently underway where the social competency groups are being filmed and coded to determine if there are improvements in participants’ social awareness and social skills. We will provide an update on the project’s findings once it is complete.

For more information on CDI's Integra Program, click here

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