The way I look at social skills, it’s like maths. Some people are naturally gifted but some find it not as intuitive. That being said we all need just enough social skills to exist in society and to form meaningful friendships which is often a challenge if you don’t know how. I believe breaking things down into bite sized pieces and practising each bit can definitely bring about meaningful change as time goes by. There is really no instant fix.
My son has dyspraxia, a likely lifelong neurodevelopment problem that affects his fine and gross motor coordination and ability to sequence thinking and control his impulses. We had come a long way over he years into the bumbling, tripping kid he was. Somewhere between dealing with the more obvious physical challenges and academics, his self esteem and peer relationships took a hit. That was a lot of baggage that he had to carry which then started to affect his well being and his mental bandwidth for his academics and being able to pay attention in class. That often made him to regress to become someone he wasn’t at times and to end up being bullied, made fun off and be isolated without a single friend. As a parent there was a time I felt truly helpless. Felt I could use all the help I could get. That was what made me to seek out Swati. She is a thorough professional and in just the past 5 months the changes I can see in my son’s body language, confidence, peer relationships and his focus even in his academics has been huge.
She has this entire team of equally dedicated professionals who have impressed me with with their extremely thorough and rigorous methods. Have loved how they design the sessions to be like role plays and games which make children open up in ways I’ve never heard him open up before. He has become so much more comfortable in his own skin, become so his own mature self with a depth I didn’t think him to be capable of. Most importantly he has accepted his individual challenges and thinks of himself as simply progressing to his goals. To the point his school counsellor told me he has become so empathetic to his peers, even offering help stepping into the role of a counsellor himself during a discussion in life skills at school. That being said he’s had some wonderful insightful teachers, a dedicated school counsellor and cannot underemphasise the effort that needs to be put in as a parent ourselves. But Swati gave me the much needed structure and most importantly the support I needed as a parent to help my son. I am truly indebted to her and her team for the wonderful work they have done with my son. Swati understands where each parent comes from and she decides things in close discussion with the parents which helps us to identify and target the most important priorities to thresh out the key focus areas every week. They also give a thorough documented summary of each session which was a wonderful insight for me as a parent and that really helped me devise my own follow-up strategies for home taking off where they had left off. Swati is a thorough professional with a heart. I would wholeheartedly recommend Swati and her team to any parent who feels they need such a support team for help .
I would like to say that every person who is working with special kids , should keep few thing in mind while working with kids;
Kari Zweber Palmer is a speech-language pathologist/social-cognitive therapist at her private practice, Changing Perspectives, in Excelsior, MN. She has co-authored, with Michelle Garcia Winner, Ryan Hendrix, and Nancy Tarshis, We Thinkers! Volume 1 Social Explorers and We Thinkers! Volume 2 Social Problem Solvers. Additionally, Kari consults with local school districts on implementing Social Thinking into their academics.Kari’s interest in communication and related disorders began long before she studied it formally. Her mom, Jane, is a speech-language pathologist and Kari grew up in the field. Kari received her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri and Master’s from the University of Kansas. Following her formal training, she started her career as a speech-language pathologist in the public schools in Minnetonka, MN, working predominately in the early childhood and elementary levels.Kari is a consultant and has mentored Learning Skills Academy team on Social Thinking curriculum.
Anita Li is working on her PhD at Western Michigan University with her advisor Dr. Alan Poling. She received her MS in Applied Behavior Analysis from Florida Institute of Technology and has had a number of clinical roles including the clinical director of Lodestone Academy – a school for students with behavior challenges which preclude them from being served in the public systems. She has been published in numerous behavioral journals. Currently, she is focusing on the development of training for behavior analysts in poly-pharmacology and how to interact with prescribing physicians.
Dr. Lina Lillis received her PhD in Behavior Analysis from the Florida Institute of Technology. She was a faculty member in the hybrid MA in professional behavior analysis program for several years before she moved back to Canada to be with family. She is currently doing consultant work throughout North America and provides remote supervision of BACB candidates throughout the world.
Manish Goyal is working on his PhD at Southern Illinois University with Dr. Pritchard. He earned his Master’s degree from Western Michigan University and has been a BCBA for a number of years. He spent time in India developing systems work and is now working with Dr. Pritchard on in-home remote consulting and treatment of behavioral problems.
Dr. Joshua K Pritchard earned his doctorate from the University of Nevada-Reno. He is a BCBA-D (Board Certified Behavior Analyst-Doctorate) currently is a faculty member of the behavior analysis programs at Southern Illinois University. He has served on the executive council of the Association for Behavior Analysis International, president of the Association for Science in Autism Treatment, and the president of Tennessee Association for Behavior Analysis. He has also been serving as the Associate Editor for scientific behavioral journals such as Behavior Analysis in Practice & Behavior Analysis: Research & Practice. In practice, he has provided behavioral services, assessments, and consultation to school, residential settings, in-home, and in-center settings for just under two decades and is the founder of a school for children with behavior disorders, a behavior-analytic clinic and this year opening learning labs across three states. In addition to his entrepreneurial development, he has provided consultation to a variety of agencies across the country and internationally using Applied Behavior Analysis and Organizational Behavior Management. Over the last few years, Dr. Joshua has been giving much of his attention to training behavior analysts, entrepreneurship, and ethics. He has explored ethics in Reno during an OBM project at The Bunny Ranch and has since presented and written on the topic, offering a scheme for ethical guidelines within OBM that incorporates the complexities and dynamics that are added when consulting with systems and organizations. In addition, he has recently begun exploring the idea of a functional approach to ethics and how that would play out in a science of behavior and its derivative practices. In the realm of entrepreneurship, Dr. Joshua has provided workshops and lectures.He is currently directing much of his time and energy providing mentorship to startups and establishing behavioral companies while incubating startups who are exploring practice outside of autism services.
Swati comes with 18 years of experience of working with special need children in school, integrated classroom and in center based setting. She completed her diploma in special education in 1999, followed by B.Ed. in special education, Post Graduate Diploma in Early Intervention from NIMH Hyderabad and Masters in Psychology. She has also completed her Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) coursework in Florida institute of Technology. She is passionate about designing various curriculum useful for improving teaching and learning of children on developmental disorders. She has published various papers on and about these issues. She is currently handling Learning Skills alongside her husband, Manu Kohli.
The program constitute curriculum majorly from Michelle Garcia Winner Social Skill Thinking program. The program is planned to provoke the thought process of a child to be able to independently judge a socially appropriate or inappropriate behavior. An appropriate and acceptable behavior is practiced within a peer group to generalize the learning’s across various settings. The program is structured and is revised at regular intervals depending on the level of the learning of the children in the group. The videos and program of the group are shared with an social skill expert in the USA , who shares her feedback , suggests program modification and updates on teaching protocols.
The main objectives of the Social Thinking program are
We teach all these above skills through games, activities and stories. The program is revised and updated regularly as per the children’s level. Parents are kept aware of programs being done in the group and how to generalize it at home and other settings.
For parents residing out of Delhi-NCR we have specifically designed a Training program where a parent can visit us with their child for 1-3 months. The program is designed to train parents on ABA skills specific to their child. A detailed assessment of the child is performed at time of joining and a program is prepared by a BCBA that includes multiple functional skills.
A customized child specific training is imparted to parent. The training includes minimum of theory but relies heavily on practical work where a parent works with their own child. Parent is mentored and regular feedback are given by a BCBA to parent to sharpen the ABA skills to meet the program goals. Once the training is completed we support parents remotely via exchange of assessments reports and videos.
The model of ‘special’ education (in a separate environmental setting) not only deprives students with special needs of full access to the curriculum but also interaction with same-aged peers. With the advent of inclusive education, a school’s resources can be used more efficiently by maximizing the availability of staff and materials for all students, equally. Inclusion programs provide a stimulating environment, as well as assessment and observation tools.
What is inclusion?
Inclusion is a philosophy and an educational approach that offers all students equal opportunities for academic and social accomplishments. This setting can be done in age appropriate class groups, where everyone will benefit from education in mainstream schools. This environment allows parents, teachers, and others to work collaboratively using appropriate resources to understand and interpret the needs and abilities of all students. The inclusion program at Learning Skills Academy offers a multidisciplinary treatment approach delivered by experts in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis, Special Education, Inclusion Specialists, Speech & Language Pathology & Occupational Therapy. The team works on implementing behavioral strategies, adapting and implementing curriculum, differentiating instruction, and targeting individual needs based on IEP goals.
The inclusion program includes –
Curriculum Adaptations : To ensure that every student receives access to education based on his/her current skill level. The curriculum is differentiated for the different needs within the classroom.
Speech and Language Therapy and Occupational Therapy : The Speech & Language Therapist (SLT) and the Occupational Therapist work closely with the Inclusion classroom teacher to ensure progress levels for students working in pairs or individually. Progress is monitored and documented through regular meetings with the child, parents, and the Inclusion Teacher.
Individualized Educational Plan(IEP) : After observing the students across all areas and subjects, the annual goals are set. IEP meetings are conducted once/term. In this meeting, academic goals and baselines (focus on developmental areas of need which overlap with educational goals) are thoroughly reviewed. The meeting is based on the results and conclusions determined by the various assessment methods.
Behavior Modification : Depending upon the goals and objectives set for each student, parent feedback, and classroom observation, a behavior plan is designed for each student with behavioral problems and difficulties. The behavior plan is shared with the mainstream teacher, who will also follow the same behavioral methodologies to ensure consistency and generalization in behavior modification.
Environmental Accommodations : Providing quiet, non-visually stimulating areas allow children with special needs to concentrate better. Visual instructions featuring images, drawings, scientific objects, etc. are employed, particularly with younger children.
Social Skills : Students with special needs are taught in a regular education school alongside “neurotypical” developing peers, to learn and develop social skills. Continuous support and attention is given to each child keeping their specific needs in mind. Different strategies and methods of communication are combined, for all the children to have common and understanding.
Advantages of inclusion programs for students :-
1. Helps build meaningful friendships 2. Increases social initiations, networks, and relationships 3. Helps in building social and behavioral skills, along with building peer role models for learning enhancement and academic skill acquisition 4. Increases access to general curriculum 5. Enhances skill acquisition and generalization along with curriculum adaptations 6. Creates opportunities for interaction and social skill developments 7. Increases acceptance and appreciation of individual differences 8. Prepares all students for adult life in an inclusive society 9. Opportunities to master activities by practicing and teaching others
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