Happy VALUE Day!
This Sunday, we highlight a new afterschool program that focuses on enhancing social skill. 'Play And Learn SocialSkills' is already affectionately known as P.A.L.S to our 5 year old.
Our son participates in this social interaction program at his district public elementary school. Last year, we considered aftercare services. We desired him to join a structured program that incorporated enhancing specific skills our son needs to improve. We sought a program that targets the goals of improving social skills, interactive play and peer pairing. Additionally, we wanted our son to have fun - since this is what he enjoys after school!
Our son is progressing quite well this academic year. We will discuss this in the upcoming 'Report Card Progress' topic later this month. We believe his school day accomplishments will give him the confidence to interact with others after school. So we enroll him in P.A.L.S.!
We are EXCITED!
We are sharing with our blog community hoping that others may want to start a similiar program at school, youth community centers, and/or incorporate some of the objectives and techniques during afterschool playgroup gatherings.*
All kids need direction, discipline and skill development even AFTER THE SCHOOL DISMISSAL BELL RINGS.
Students with special needs and behavorial challenges especially need to have a structured, productive after school environment that transfers the skills acquired during the day to the home and community settings.
We are so EXCITED!
P.A.L.S. - Play and Learn SocialSkills
P.A.L.S. - is a program that our son's elementary school developed to address the dual interests of Parents of Students who needed Social Skills improvement, as well as, aftercare services.
The PALS Club group focuses on improving social skills through play. Each session introduces several social skill topics. A maximum of 6 Students (grades K-1) comprises the group who have a need for social skill development. Typical peers are the partnered with with kids like our son . The group engages in the following steps:
1) Discusses the specific skill
2) Practices that skill with their 'pals'
3) Uses their new skills in a play setting.
Our son's play group is based on the “Model Me Kids” videos for modeling social skills(www.modelmekids.com). The other component is the Second Step Curriculum - created by the nonprofit Community for Children - is designed to develop vital social and emotional skills to teach kids how to stay safe from violence, bullying, and sexual abuse.(http://www.cfchildren.org/). Our son started P.A.L.S. on Oct. 7th and will attend every first Thursday from 3:30pm-4:30pm until May 5th. The coordinator explained that at each session, our son will have a snack, review a lesson, practice/play and wrap up his aftercare time. Students with special dietary needs, like our son, are asked to bring a snack of their choice.
To our surprise, the program includes a great parent component! The P.A.L.S. Parent Resource Center in the school Counselor's office is opening next month! Our calendars are marked for every 1st Monday viewing of the various instructional videos. Also, our P.A.L.S Coordinator encourages the Parents to schedule a separate time to have their children watch the Model Me Kids series. By the way, our P.A.L.S. Coordinator is a special education teacher, the creative organizer of the school's Sensory Room(which our son enjoys!); and genuinely likes the Students and respects the Parents
We are very EXCITED!
First Day of P.A.L.S.! -
Next, we would like to share how our son ENJOYED his first afternoon 'playing' at school with fellow students. It is important that Parents evaluate, assess, review and share about relevant programs. It is equally important that we constructively inform our children's instructors about the positive components of implemented programs. Communication and Collaboration by the adults is vital to the success of the child. Thus, we are sharing excerpts from notes - to our son's child development specialist, as well as, his P.A.L.S. Coordinator, Special Education PreSchool Early Intervention Program Teacher and Kindergarten Teacher - of how much our son ENJOYED P.A.L.S.!**
About 2 weeks ago, we received the flyer/application introducing the P.A.L.S. Program. We reviewed it with our son as he colored the 'pals' characters on it. To his surprise, the coordinator returned his coloring! Over the next week, we talked with him about P.A.L.S. and periodically used his coloring to remind him that it will start in October. As we counted down the days, we reviewed the Model Me Kids website - which our son really enjoyed.
Early Dismissal - (doctor's visit)
We think our son adjusted quite well to leaving school early, going to the doctors office, eating his snack while reviewing his P.A.L.S. paper. He played fairly well with the other kids at the pediatrician office, too. He braves through a quick leg shot, but was so uncomfortable with the unfamiliar 'seasonal' office decor. Waiting the customary 15 post flu shot, he opens the hallway door to leave and AGAIN encounters those 'body imbalancing-sudden nerves-alternating-gravity fast-moving doors' elevators! [Remember the Temple Grandin HBO movie?] He does not like elevators but he has learned to focus on the (drawings or numbers) and count up or down depending on which way we are going.
This account is included because often we spend so much time focusing on the 'problem' and not giving greater attention to the progress. Our son transitioned very well during these multiple changes in his 'routine' weekday schedule :
- early dismissal
- end of school day snack in the car
- doctors office and a leg vaccination
- return to school
- participate in a new program after school
Back to School -(for) P.A.L.S.
As we drove back to school, I reminded our son we were going back to school'... for P.A.L.S.'! He looked at his paper as he ate his snack. His pleasant expression indicated that he recognized the P.A.L.S. characters. For a new routine, I think he did wonderful walking back into school, rechecking in and walking back to class!
P.A.L.S. Rewards Participants -
Our son was smiling, giggling, looking relaxed and comfortable as when the coordinator dismissed him. His face and body language said it all! We hugged, shouted P.A.L.S. accolades as we jumped up and down with pure joy! Our P.A.L.S. Coordinator excitedly shared with me that my son had explored new areas of the school and had a good time! She gave him his P.A.L.S. Certificate and a kids restaurant coupon.
P.A.L.S. - Our son totally enjoyed his first day in his first afterschool program!
'Play and Learn SocialSkills'!
Ureka! We struck gold! -
After jumping, dancing, floor-circling and giving hugs and hi-5s, he proudly walked to the car, opened the door and reached for his P.A.L.S. certificate. For 3 minutes, he just sat there with sheer admiration expressed on his face and in his posture. I waited outside the car sensing this was a self-reflective moment for my 5 year old. He just quietly sat there smiling while silently 'reading' his certificate. Then, in a calm, content voice, he pointed to each letter as he said them and confidently, yet softly proclaimed 'PALS.' I believe this was his way of sharing that he understands what this paper represents, he connected with our conversations; and appreciates why he came back to school - for P.A.L.S.
More Social Interaction Progress! -
We celebrated more by going to his favorite mall, eating his fav chicken nuggets and 'no salt please' waffle fries. He enjoys reading the food activity bag while eating there. Afterwards, he explores the color(ful), interactive, brightly lite electronic games and gadgets. Periodically, he would stand near another kid as they 'played' one of the games,making minimal eye contact while pointing and gestering to take his turn with the joy sticks.
Some eye connecting!
No fidgitting, scrimming, rocking or screaming!
Exchanging glances and smiles!
Great! I think as I snap several photos!
As soon as he see his father, he immediately, but calmly and assertively, proudly showed his Dada his P.A.L.S. Certificate. Giving verbal praise, he reads the certificate as our son calls out P.A.L.S. and laughs uncontrollably. We gave each other hi-5s!
As I type this note, I am crying with joy just recounting our son's range of emotions: from inquisitive upon arrival to excited at dismissal to calm as he reflected on his first P.A.L.S. day. I hope I never forget this moment. But, more importantly, we hope our 5 year old challenged with autism will remember his thoughts, feelings, pals and fun - and will want to come back to P.A.L.S. next month.
Learning peer engagement strategies is relevant for personal development of children. Acquiring positive peer interaction is vital and impacts one's future. We hope that participating in P.A.L.S. will prove to be mutually beneficial for our son and his P.A.L.S. peers.
P.A.L.S. Coordinator and Team AND FELLOW PALS really made a positive mark on our son's life. We are so grateful. We hope his participation brought joy to others, too.
Ultimately, we hope the P.A.L.S. school-based aftercare program will help our son 'walk through more doors that lead to more community socializing and greater life success'.
*When considering this type of program apart from the school setting, we recommend that you seek the advice of a professional experienced in social skills development for children with atypical behaviors who are learning to interacting with their typical peers. Your child's school, pediatrican and/or social service providers will be able to refer reliable sources.
**Remember, we always "encourage Parents and your child's Educators to develop and maintain effective communication and productive collaboration. Sharing daily or weekly notes to each other is a good way to do so. As Parents, we believe that our son's Teachers and other academic service providers are a TEAM (school-based instructors in general studies, enrichment,special services, etc..) Parents should be cognizant of readily offering expressions of appreciation of/to their child's TEAM. Therefore, we share progress and concerns with them, as well as, thank our TEAM for wholeheartedly utilizing their professional expertise to assist us with the development our our son."