PEERS® (Program of the Educational and Enrichment of Relational Skills) is an evidence based program developed at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). This program is designed to help teens who are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, anxiety and other social impairments by teaching validated social skills. What this essentially means is that we – the clinicians of PEERS® – are teaching social behaviors that are naturally used by teens who are socially successful in making and maintaining friendships. In other words, we are not teaching what we THINK teens should do in social situations, but what actually works. It is important to know that extensive academic research has been done with the PEERS® program and the outcomes have been found to be positive.
One of the critical reasons this program has positive outcomes is the parent component. Parents are being taught as well as the teen and the rules learned can be applied at home, school, get togethers, and extracurricular activities. The parents guide their teen during the 14 week program and continue the guidance when the session is over.
Who is a right fit for this program?
- Teen must be in middle or high school
- IQ above 70
- Must have good verbal communication skills
- Social Problem / Issue
- Parent/guardian be willing to participate
- Teen willing to participate
- Teen may not have behavioral problems i.e. violence, aggression or elopement
- Teen not having get together with friends his own age
- No friends at school or community
- Socially withdrawn
Teens develop an understanding of the rules of social interactions by learning the basic “do’s and dont’s” coupled with the reasoning behind every rule. In addition, we teach concrete steps for each social skill. It becomes clear to the teen and parents that those concrete steps – which many are not aware of – exist in the social world. Many parents we have worked with have stated “before PEERS®, I would just tell my teen to have a conversation with a prospective friend.” In this scenario, the teen is set up for failure because the teen doesn’t know how to enter and maintain the conversation. Parents are not aware of the concrete steps PEERS® teaches because parents learned the steps naturally and never had the rules broken down for them to teach to their teen.
PEERS® sessions involve two classes running concurrently. One class is for the parents where a therapist/clinician teaches the rules underpinning social skills. This includes analyzing why the teen may not be having success in certain areas of making and maintaining relationships and friendships. In another classroom, the teens are also taught by another therapist/clinician. The teens are taught those same rules and concrete steps as well as problem solving.
As a final note, it is important to understand that for individuals who develop social skills naturally and who succeeded in making and maintaining friendships, no classes are necessary. They are successful at making friends, having get togethers and doing extracurricular activities as early on as preschool. For individuals that struggle with social skills, it is always difficult and when they are in middle and high school, it becomes an extreme challenge. On average, a typical teen has approximately 3 get togethers in a week – which includes an extracurricular activity. If you find your teen is not having these interactions, please look into the PEERS® program and contact us.