The Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS®) is a social skills training intervention for adolescents and young adults. It has a strong evidence-base for use with teens and young adults with autism spectrum disorders, but is also appropriate for teens and young adults with ADHD, anxiety, depression, and other socio-emotional problems. The program was developed by Dr. Elizabeth Laugeson and Dr. Fred Frankel in 2005 and has been offered in many locations across the US and the world.

PEERS Program at The Ability Hub

The Ability Hub is pleased to offer the PEERS® program to motivated teens (and their parents) in junior high or high school who are interested in learning ways to help them make and keep friends. The program is offered once a week (for a duration of 90 minutes) and is designed to help teens to understand the benefits of why friendships are important.

Research has found that having one or two close friends:

  • Can buffer the impact of stressful life events
  • Correlates positively with self-esteem
  • Increases independence
  • Decreases depression and anxiety

Participants

The first two groups completed the PEERS program successfully between September and December of 2013.  Fourteen families benefited from the program and in 2014 we will be expanding to three groups (two adolescent and one adult group) starting in January.       

Why was it awesome?

 Unlike other social skills programs, the PEERS program

  • Is evidence-based
  • Includes parents
  • Teaches practical social skills that can be used in the real world
  • Tailors teaching methods to target individual social skills deficits

It is also interesting to note the changes the participants experience as they begin to pick up on skills and strategies offered through the program. For example during the first initial meeting, many participants expressed some anxiety or reservations regarding how much they feel they can achieve in the program.  However by the seventh and eighth week, their anxieties and feelings of self-doubt were often replaced with a new found curiosity of how they could transfer and apply new skills and knowledge to a variety of other social situations

Feedback

“This afternoon we had feedback from B’s teacher regarding how B has been doing since our October meeting with her.  She says that she has seen “remarkable” improvements in B’s social skills at school since he has started the Peers program.  He is positively engaging his peers in conversation (using the questions from the Peers handout mostly), he is shrugging off and saying “whatever” when unkind words are directed at him, he is using humor and laughing appropriately, and he is continuing to encourage and make good comments to others.

She is seeing a happier B, especially around his peers :)))) she has specifically added Week #6 & #7, plus Week #12 to B’s IPP (Individual Program Plan).  She is thrilled to know that disagreements are being worked on as this is an area that B needs knowledge and understanding on how to handle with these types of situations. 

Overall, my Husband and I are thrilled with her comments and are very proud of B!!  I am so glad that my family participated in this Peers program 🙂
 
Great job everyone! “

How did it meet or exceed expectations?

At this time, we are still in the process of collecting feedback and other relevant information (i.e., program and individual outcome evaluation) from participants and their families.  

Many parents have indicated that they will be telling their friends who have children on the spectrum about the benefits of PEERS and wonderful opportunities to learn and practice social skills. 

Good News

Adam McCrimmon and David Nicholas from the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Social Work were successful in receiving $40,000 in research funding for the PEERS program from the Alberta Centre for Child, Family and Community Research. This means they will be able to research, write up and present at conferences on the amazing outcomes of the PEERS program taking place in both Calgary and Edmonton.

Mike Barrett, MA (Registered Provisional Psychologist – Launch Team)

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