An Innovative New Curriculum from AAPC Publishing Provides Strategies and Activities to Support the Development of Friendship Skills in Children with ASD

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This curriculum from AAPC Publishing emphasizes the principle that children best learn social skills by actually putting them into practice in an active and fun learning environment. Through a series of theme-based sessions and a large selection of fun activities, participants are taught a wide variety of skills that they can use to foster friendships.

Curriculum for developing social skills for individuals with ASD or other social challenges from AAPC Publishing

Participating in the Destination Friendship program made me feel more confident in myself and helped me with my social skills.

Written by a team of two special educators, a speech-language pathologist, and an occupational therapist, Destination Friendship, is an innovative new curriculum that provides easy-to-use, research-based strategies and activities to support the development of friendship skills in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). This curriculum emphasizes the principle that children best learn social skills by actually putting them into practice in an active and fun learning environment. Through a series of theme-based sessions and a large selection of fun activities, participants are taught a wide variety of skills that they can use to foster friendships.

Friendships are one of the most vital aspects of the human experience. Research tells us that individuals who have friends are likely to be happier, healthier and live longer than those who do not. From an early age, it is important to teach skills needed to acquire and retain friendships. This is especially true for those who work with children with ASD – children who often struggle with these skills.

Adult Tour Guides act as a personal GPS system by offering subtle coaching, which has been identified as the most effective means of ensuring generalization, and social scripting. They lead participants through each theme-based session and present opportunities for them to practice their friendship skills. Real-life applications teach participants that what they say and do has a direct impact on others.

Friendships help children learn about the ins and outs of social behavior and provide a natural training ground for the development of many crucial skills. The Destination Friendship model is based on the philosophy that all participants should be accepted for who they are and should be guided and supported to grow in a positive way as they develop friendship skills. Furthermore, participants are encouraged to be proud of whom they are and the interests they love. They are never made to feel “different.”

“Participating in the Destination Friendship program made me feel more confident in myself and helped me with my social skills. It gave me an opportunity to meet and make friends that were similar to myself. I really enjoyed the program, had a lot of fun and learned a lot. Overall, I really liked it and would love to do it again!”
– Gabby Arce, age 16, Destination Friendship participant

“These ladies get it! Destination Friendship is a program both parents and children love. The concrete pictures, lessons, and lists provide children on the autism spectrum a feeling of comfort and support while they try new things. My son took this course at a local YMCA with these four authors. A child’s growth is documented in easily understood, personalized, and rewarding ways. I knew my son was understood and I saw a profound growth in his ability to socialize as a result of his participation in the program. This book would be a great asset for schools to use in in-services to help general education teachers figure out how to work successfully with kids on the spectrum. I can also see a special ed. teacher or other adults using it to lead a small group of kids with the activities.”
– Khrystina Gleason, mother and elementary school volunteer

About the Authors
Mary Benton, MEd, BCBA, has a private practice as a board-certified behavior analyst serving individuals with autism spectrum disorders and/or developmental disabilities. She is also co-founder of Destination Friendship, an organization that provides fun, community-based opportunities targeted at developing friendship skills in children, and adolescents with ASD.

Carol Hollis, MEd, BCBA, is an educational consultant for autism with the Capital Area Intermediate Unit in Harrisburg, PA and provides guided practice, training, and technical assistance to general and special educators in grades K-12.

Kelly Mahler, MS, OTR/L, is a pediatric occupational therapist in the Central Pennsylvania region specializing in the development of self-regulation and social cognition skills. She is also co-founder of Destination Friendship, an organization that provides fun, community-based opportunities targeted at developing friendship skills in children and adolescents with ASD.

Alice Womer, MS, CC-SLP, has served for 29 years as a speech-language pathologist and educational consultant with the Capital Area Intermediate Unit in Harrisburg, PA and is responsible for direct treatment with students with ASD in self-contained classrooms as well as integrated settings.

About AAPC
Established in 1999, the mission of AAPC Publishing is to be the first source for practical solutions related to autism spectrum and related disorders. We are an independent publisher, targeting professionals and parents alike.

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