4Once a week, a group of teenage girls sits in the dining room of G5, an on-campus group home. They usually participate in group activities, play games or create pieces of art. The girls laugh and encourage one another. It looks like they are just having a good time, but they are actually gaining valuable social skills. Heartspring is always searching for different ways to help our students grow. One opportunity we give our students is Girls Group. The social club started in the beginning of 2015 as a way to help students improve their communication and social interaction abilities. The girls learn valuable lessons in social etiquette like eye contact, active engagement, identifying and expressing emotions, coping with anger and anxiety, peer conflict, sportsmanship and manners. Every session is different. When School Psychologist Megan began the group, she wanted to make sure the girls were having fun, so they were excited to learn.“You know that they are enjoying it, but they are also learning valuable life skills,” Megan said.It was also important for Megan to get the paraeducators involved. This way, the young women can take what they learned with them and use it the rest of the week, continually building on what they discussed in the group. This fall, the group changed hands. Behavior Specialist Karla took over because she began working more with the girls on a day-to-day basis, which helps with consistency. The expectations and goals stayed the same. Both leaders have seen a great improvement in the girls’ social skills. They cheer each other on during group and wait patiently for their turn. It has also helped with their coping skills. “It teaches them to talk and work through those difficult situations in a group setting,” Karla said.Most importantly, the group gives the girls the chance to learn things they will use the rest of their lives.“They’re skills that will enrich their lives that they can take from here when they transition,” Karla said.Girls GroupStudents create masks and discuss emotions and communication in Girls Group.
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