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Calls to Action

School-Based Social Skills Groups by Belle Children's Services of St. Louis Arc

St. Louis
United States

St. Louis Arc was founded in 1950. Today, more than sixty years later, it has grown into a multiservice agency that helps more than 3,000 people each year, throughout the St. Louis metro area. About a quarter of those we serve have a diagnosis on the autism spectrum, and more than half are under the age of 21. Our full range of services span a lifetime and include early intervention therapies, inclusive childcare, family support and education, advocacy, prevention, youth and adult day programs, leisure and recreation, vocational training, supported employment, supported living and 24-hour residential care.

In 2012, The Belle Center, an organization with a 28-year history of providing inclusive therapies and early education services to children with all kinds of disabilities, merged into St. Louis Arc, forming the new division Belle Children’s Services of St. Louis Arc. Belle Childen's Services works within the homes, schools and community programs of St. Louis to provide progressive, family-centered early intervention therapies and family supports. This mission-driven merger will further expand and sustain services for children and families throughout the St. Louis area.

Scope of the Program

Some of our children are challenged with the difficulty of regulating their own behaviors in the moment. Through School-Based Social Skills Groups, Belle’s highly qualified licensed therapists and special educators will lead group activities that provide a fun forum in which children can explore their challenges and identify ways to modify their thoughts and behaviors in various settings.

Superflex®: A Superhero Social Thinking Curriculum provides educators, parents and therapists fun and motivating ways to teach students with social and communication difficulties (such as Asperger Syndrome, ADHD, high-functioning autism or other diagnosed or undiagnosed). The three part cognitive behavioral curriculum helps students to develop further awareness of their own thinking and social behaviors and learn strategies to help them develop better self-regulation across a range of these behaviors.

Our goal is to assist young children with ASD or social/communication difficulties to improve social skills and learn ways to self-regulate their behaviors. Secondary goals are to educate and enable teachers, parents and other students to provide natural support to the child in the inclusive classroom.

Steps To Achieving

School-Based Social Skills Groups will be offered to children at four pilot locations, and will include children with and without disabilities whenever possible. Groups will meet for 1 hour each week for 8 weeks, enabling therapists and teachers to introduce curriculum materials and follow up to help children process and practice the information. These social skill groups are outside the educational supports provided to children with IEPs and not funded by schools.

From 4-6 children with ASD will be served in each mixed age group. Groups will be made up of children ages 3-6 years or 1st -5th graders, depending on the school. Groups will typically meet during or immediately after the school day, utilizing the least restrictive environment. Therapist will collaborate with on-site classroom teachers to conduct pre- and post- program social inventories of participants and will consult with site staff and teachers each week to discuss individual children’s progress and to implement follow-up activities.

Target Audience and Locations

Belle Children’s Services of St. Louis Arc has wide range within St. Louis community, serving as the primary provider of special education services in 6 charter schools in St. Louis City, and providing embedded programs at four local preschools. In addition, our Outreach Therapy program has a wide reach to schools, community centers and daycares. For this pilot project, we have selected four diverse and largely underserved locations:

• Jamma (North City Charter School)

• St. Louis Language Immersion School (South City Charter School)

• UMSL’s Early Childhood Center (Belle’s embedded preschool program)

• A private Lutheran School (parochial)