There are many things to take into consideration before formulating a group. An example is understanding the participants of the group. In this case, the participants are children diagnosed with ASD. Therefore, the topics of concern for this population should be investigated thoroughly in order to come up with a good support group session agenda. It is also important for a research to be conducted about the benefits of group work for children with autism spectrum disorder. A facilitator should consider the needs to be made in order to offer an effective support for this particular group. It is also very important for the facilitator to address the anti-oppressive participants for this support group and make considerations to facilitate the group of children with autism spectrum disorder. It can be observed that there are a number of social identity issues that need to be considered. This will enable the facilitator to ensure that the group experience is inclusive and accessible for all children. Therefore, the group should be made in a manner that will ensure that it will not exclude marginalized people in the society.
Topics to consider
In this case, the group to be formed are of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. As a facilitator it is very important to know what autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is before formulating the group. This is because it will enable them to know about the topics of concern with the participants such as the behavioral and sociological aspects. By knowing these facts, the facilitator will be able to know what steps to take when formulating the group.
Autism spectrum disorder is defined as the group or conditions of neurodevelopmental disorders (50). The term spectrum is descried to be a wide range of symptoms, disabilities and skills. It is stated that autism begins during infancy stage. Some of the most common symptoms of this disorder are lack of communicate skills, learning disabilities, social impairment, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), anxiety disorders, Dyspraxia, and attention deficit disorder (ADHD). These symptoms will enable a facilitator to know the type of ASD the children are suffering. Hence, it will aid them in formulating a particular exercise that will be helpful to certain groups of children suffering from a particular ASD symptom. According to a research conducted by Natalia Poliakova and Alison Palkhivala (2008), the most severe ASD conditions is autism (50). This is because its definition contains deficits of three major areas that is involved in development. These areas are behavior, communication and socialization. The topic of concerns in this area are children with autism disorder tend to have stereotypical, restrictive or repetitive behaviors or interests. An example of such behaviors is repetitive body movements or being preoccupied with a particular object or toy.
Another topic of concern apart from the children with the disorder is the group dynamics. It is important for one to understand group dynamics and what it entails. According to researchers, group dynamics are stated to be a system of behaviors that are observed within an intragroup and intergroup. Research also indicates that group dynamics enables one to understand decision-making behaviors or in this case, creating an effective group activities that will help the children (Austin & Boyd, 2010, 276).
The benefits of group work for this population
According to researchers, group work for children with autism disorder has proven to be therapeutic (Shepherd & Waddell, 2015, 3559). This is because it helps at improving some of the symptoms of ASD. Therefore, group work can be categorized as a variety of therapy of social skills, which aids in behavioral and developmental intervention. This fact was observed by the research conducted by Rachel Rose and Caroline Anketell in 2009 (140). These findings could also be observed from a research evaluation conducted by Shepherd and Waddell (2015) on a group of children with ASD and the programs they are involved in (3560). An example of the program used was the social skills group. The researcher collected data using questionnaire in order to find out the progress of the children. The parents indicated that there was a significant improvement of how the children behaved after going to the social skills groups. Hence, this findings indicate that there were some positive changes, especially for children with social communication difficulties.
Considerations to be made to offer effective support group for children with ASD
In any group activities, there are various things that need to be put into consideration in order to offer effective support to the participants. In this case, the participants are children with Autism spectrum disorder. They have various needs that makes it impossible for many people even trained professionals to handle them. Therefore, it is important to ensure that the group has certain materials needed to help the children to interact with one another for example toys or sand to play with in the group (Lu et al., 2010, 56). This will aid them in their social skills, which seems to be lacking.
The children’s state of mind should be analyzed in order to find a suitable way for them to interact with one another. For example most children with autism spectrum disorder tend to be extremely shy and awkward around others, hence, it causes them to lose interest in making friendships with others. Therefore, there is need for this types of children to be placed in an environment that is conducive for them to interact with others. This will enable them to engage in verbal communication (Rose & Anketell 2008, 51).
Considerations needed to be made for facilitating groups with anti-oppressive group
Anti-oppressive groups are usually very calm and keep it to themselves. They do not talk or try to interact with other children. Therefore, there is a lot to be considered when handling this particular group. Examples of these factors are the environment, language and place of the group work. The environment needs to be conducive for the children to be able to be free to move about and feel safe to play (Patterson & Kasari, 2012, 718). It can be observed that these types of children gets irritated very fast, therefore, they need a place where they would feel secure and comfortable. The language used by the facilitator should be polite and soothing. This will enable the children to feel comfortable around the person. However, once a person uses harsh language the child will become irritated and will lose interest in any activity presented to them. There are also some certain terminologies used when communicating with these types of autistic children (Rose & Anketell 2008, 51).
Important social identity issues needed to be considered
The social identity issue needed to be considered is equality of all children in the group regardless of their religion, social class, ethnicity, and race (Spears et al., 2005, 747). This will enable the children to interact with one another without being discriminated. Hence, it will help them to learn to be social to people from different backgrounds or social status. A facilitator should carefully explain to the children the codes of social conduct that will enable them to understand about equality of all people.
How to ensure that the group experience is inclusive and accessible for all
There are many ways that a facilitator will be able to ensure that the group experience is inclusive and accessible for all. An example is not showing biasness when interacting with the children and their parents (Spears et al., 2005, 748). This will enable people from various backgrounds to feel wanted and welcomed in the group. All activities conducted in the group should be participated by all children regardless of their social identity. It is also important to formulate a program in the group that is gender neutral. This will enable all the children to interact with one another without being segregated because of their gender.
How will the group content or facilitations ensure they will not further exclude socially marginalized identity groups?
The group facilitation should formulate a set of guidelines and rules that will ensure that marginalized groups are not discriminated by anyone. This fact will make it easy for parents to allow their children to participate in this group activity without fearing for the welfare of their children (Spears et al., 2005, 749). The facilitation should also have meetings with the parents in order to discourage the use of socially degrading words against other people in front of their children. This is because children learn everything they see in their environments. Therefore, by using degrading words against others the children will learn that certain people are beneath them. Thereby, it is important as a facilitator to ensure that social justice and equity be incorporated into the work place. All children should be treated the same without any prejudice.
Starting a group
It is important to ensure that a person checks their surroundings and find out if there is any other ASD group for children. This will be done when an individual goes to the nearest Canadian autism and Asperger’s association (Austin & Boyd, 2010, 276). By providing an insight to the association that a person is interested in formulating a group. They take it upon themselves to provide necessary information that will help in educating that facilitator about ASD and how it affects the children. It is stated that they will also provide some resources that will help in promoting the newly developed group.
It is also important that a person starting a group needs to plan how much time is needed for the group to take place or formulated. This will help them to understand what they should do at specific time.
Support group session agenda
Welcome the children
Once parents bring their children for the group sessions the facilitator should welcome them. Since, the children are shy and antisocial it is important for the facilitator to greet them warmly and gently. This will enable the children to feel welcomed and comfortable, hence it will break the ice. An example is “Hello, children, my name is Jennie. Thank you for coming today.” When the children are seated try to grab their attention by sitting down with them and interacting with them one on one. Start by asking “what is your name?” This should be done to all the children through a face to face interactions. Face to face interaction with children suffering from autism spectrum disorder is very fundamental because all they need is attention and care, therefore, when the facilitator pays attention to them (Poliakova & Palkhivala, 2008, 50). The children end up feeling acknowledged by them. Take ten to fifteen minutes to learn more about the children. It is also important for the facilitator to keep track of how many children have joined the group. This will enable them to keep track of how many people are in the group so as to plan for future division of the group.
The main activity should take up to twenty to thirty minutes. Hence, the facilitator should use toys to play with the children. According to research, children play is one of the most fundamental activities that help children to interact with one another, even when they have social or communication problems and learning disability (Lu, 2010, 64). Therefore, the facilitator should provide a wide range of toys for the children to play with in the group. It is also important for the facilitator to play with the children while talking to them. This will help the children to be comfortable and create a bond with the facilitator.
The closing exercise should take fifteen minutes before the group work is concluded. The facilitator should ensure that the children come together and play with one another. This will be done through the formation of groups between the children present during the group work. An example a facilitator can take toy cars and give them to the children in all the groups. Then the facilitator tells the children to share the toys by taking turns, while playing. This is done because children diagnosed with ASD do not like sharing their toys. Therefore, to encourage them to share the toys one needs to applaud or reward the children when they share the toys with one another. Also listen to their complaints and discourage any wrong doing. Teach the children to return the toys in the toy cart after playing and end the session by saying goodbye to the children once their family members come to take them.
In conclusion, these activities indicated in the support group session are meant to help the children diagnosed with ASD. These children have behavioral and developmental problems (Poliakova & Palkhivala, 2008, 50). Therefore, through the use of toys to play the children’s minds will be awaken and hence, can be able to learn new things. The group work activities will help the children with their social skills. Hence, there is a possibility that the children will learn to make friendships with their peers.
Anketell, C. & Rose, R. (2009). The Benefits of Social Skills Groups for Young People with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Pilot Study. Journal Child Care and Practice, 127-144.
Austin W. & Boyd, A. M. (2010). Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing for Canadian Practice. Wolters Kluwer Health, 275-276.
Lu, L. (2010). Stimulating creative play in children with autism through sandplay. Elsevier, 56–64.
Poliakova, N. & Palkhivala, A. (2008). Social Impairment in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Canadian Council on Learning, 50-51.
Patterson, S. & Kasari, C. (2012). Interventions Addressing Social Impairment in Autism. Curr Psychiatry Rep, 713-725.
Shepherd C. A. & Waddell, C. (2015). A Qualitative Study of Autism Policy in Canada: Seeking Consensus on Children’s Services. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 3550–3564.
Spears, T. et al. (2005). Individuality and Social Influence in Groups: Inductive and Deductive. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 747–763.