UC Davis MIND Institute Takes Its Social Skills Group Online

April 116, 2021

The UC Davis MIND Institute has offered Social Skills Groups for children, preteens, teens, and young adults since 2001. Traditionally, groups ran for 25 weeks, and catered to 8-15 children at a time. Groups were offered for children (ages 8-10), tweens (ages 11-13), and teens (ages 14-17).

When COVID-19 caused in-person services to shut down in March 2020, groups were abruptly terminated, and no one could fathom how we would be able to offer these services for the duration of the pandemic. As services increasingly transitioned to telehealth, and as providers were forced to become increasingly creative, the staff and LEND trainees at the MIND Institute at UC Davis endeavored to create a Zoom-based Social Skills Group. In order to adapt to the new format, groups were shortened to 8 weeks, and 6 participants per group. We created a group for tweens (ages 11-13) and teens (age 14-17).

Topics covered in the online social skills group include understanding social circles, conversation skills, making friends, understanding other people's perspectives, and conflict resolution. In addition to the social skills groups for teens and tweens, the parents participated in a corresponding group which provided the parents with tools to support their children in practicing and applying the skills learned in group, as well as providing parents with the opportunity to connect with other parents who share similar experiences.

Due to the brief nature of this format, we now have the opportunity to serve more youth with ASD, as well as serving youth from more diverse geographical locations. Even after in-person group services are safe to resume, social skills groups on zoom may remain an excellent option for providing services to wider groups of individuals needing services. We are proud of the success we have had with this program so far and encourage other providers to offer social skills groups via telehealth.

By: Shereen Cohen, Ph.D.