PEERS: Week 9

This week’s topic in PEERS was about having get-togethers! The lesson included how to plan and prepare for them, ideas for activities, steps for beginning and ending get-togethers, and basic rules to follow.

The students learned to plan using the five W’s.

  • WHO is going to be there
  • WHAT they’re going to do
  • WHERE they’re going to get together
  • WHEN they’re going to get together
  • HOW the get-together is going to happen

Next they discussed common activities young adults enjoy.  Here’s a link to a chart that includes a list of possible activities (scroll down to page 218). I thought it was very helpful for generating ideas.

Once they have planned a get-together, as the time gets closer they need to prepare:

  • Make a follow-up call to finalize plans two day in advance
  • Make sure your space is cleaned up
  • Have refreshments ready to share
  • Put away personal items you don’t want others to share, see, or touch
  • Have other activities ready (as a backup)

Next they learned how to begin a get-together (that is in their home):

  • Greet your guest (don’t open the door, then turn and walk away — yes, this does happen!)
  • Invite them in (don’t leave them standing outside in the cold!)
  • Introduce them to anyone they don’t know (parents, siblings, etc.)
  • Show them around (not a tour of the whole house, but the important stuff – like where’s the bathroom and the kitchen?)
  • Offer them refreshments (who doesn’t like to eat?)
  • Ask them what they want to do (this is a biggie since many kids on the spectrum struggle with letting another person choose the activity)

Steps for ending a get-together:

  • Wait for a pauses in activities
  • Give a cover story for ending the get-together
  • Start walking your friend to the door
  • Thank your friend for getting together
  • Tell them you had a good time
  • Say goodbye and you’ll see them later

Lastly, here are some rules to follow during get-togethers:

  • They should be activity based
  • The guests get to pick the activities in your home
  • Go with the flow
  • Don’t invite other people into your get-together unexpectedly
  • Don’t ignore your friends
  • Don’t tease your friends
  • Stick up for your friends
  • Don’t argue with your friends
  • Don’t police your friends
  • Be a good sport
  • Suggest a change if you get bored
  • Trade information at least half the time (in other words, have a conversation, at least part of the time)
  • Keep it short and sweet to start

This week for homework they will continue practicing entering and exiting group conversations, and they will also begin the process of planning a get-together.

RC has been enjoying the PEERS group and has done well with the role-playing. He’s still struggling with practicing these skills out in the real world because he gets nervous talking with people he doesn’t know.  He has started a few conversations with other students in one of his classes, though. The conversations are mainly focused on the assignments, but it’s a good start!


JSSA Employment Event this Wednesday

This looks like it might be a worthwhile event. Thank you, professor Staci, for sharing this with me! I am definitely planning to check it out.  If you are intersted in attending, you can register here

Transition to Employment Open House

April 25 @ 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm

JSSA Transition to Employment Open House | Disability Employment | Rockville, MD

JSSA’s Specialized Employment Servicesinvites you to learn about our transitioning youth services:

  • Career exploration and assessments
  • Work adjustment training
  • Job development and coaching
  • Social engagement programs
  • New pre-transitional youth program
  • DDA programs

Have your questions answered by key transition resources:

  • Disability employment staff
  • Partnering employers
  • State and County transition representatives
Light refreshments will be served. ASL and Spanish-speaking specialists available. Please let us know if you will need an interpreter. 


Specialized Employment Services

Junior & the WBLE

The WBLE didn’t work for RC’s situation, but we aren’t completely finished with our experiment. I think it’s worth looking at another situation to see if we might get a different result.

Staci’s son Junior (age 17) is working with DORS to find summer employment. Junior has been approved for DORS funding, and they meet with their DORS counselor on Wednesday to create his IPE (Individual Plan for Employment). During this meeting Staci and Junior will most likely be choosing an agency to work with. Hopefully their choice will be better than mine!

So, we’ll give the WBLE experiment one more try and see if we can get a better result.

I’ll plan to provide updates periodically. So stay tuned for more WBLE fun!

Conclusion to WBLE Experiment

So, we finally threw in the towel with the WBLE. Working with Nick was more trouble than it was worth. Things were moving at a snail’s pace, and it seemed like there was always something coming along “just around the corner”, but nothing ever materialized. It was becoming almost comical.

I suspect he did not have many solid contacts with area businesses, and probably had more clients than he could handle. Communication wasn’t clear and there was very little follow-through. I was becoming more and more aggravated. I finally realized we needed to cut our losses. I asked RC how he felt about moving on from the WBLE. He was perfectly fine with calling it quits. I think he had had enough as well.

It was an interesting and educational process nonetheless. RC and I had some good conversations about what it means to be a good employee by using Nick as an example of what NOT to do. So… there’s always a silver lining, right?  I’ve been thinking about what Joy and Josh said about how their best advocates were the ones they paid directly.  This has been true for us as well.

In our case, the WBLE did not work out, but I think there are other agencies who have connections with area businesses and they do a better job of serving their clients. Also, in general, there are more WBLE opportunities during the summer months. So, if you are considering a WBLE for your child, don’t give up hope. It might work out better for you!

My main take-home lesson in all of this is to ask many, many questions before we commit to a particular agency.  I will remember to slow down, say a prayer, and wait for an answer. I had reservations about the agency we chose from day one, but tried to rationalize them away. Looking back, my gut instinct was spot on. Lesson learned!

So now RC is going to pick up the pace on his job search, and we’ll hope and pray something works out for him soon. He’s also going to attend an orientation at Worksource Montgomery.  They help with resume writing, interviewing skills, and can connect him with potential employment opportunites. I’ll write more about them later…


Sherr & Jon: Week 19

Sherr was busy this week advocating for her fellow- amputees on Capitol Hill (yay Sherr!). Since this important endeavor took up most of her time, she wasn’t able to get as much accomplished on the “Jon” front this week.  But now she is ready to get back on track!

Sherr is continuing to help Jon as he works through his banking issues, and they decided to schedule an hour this week to visit the bank together.  She has also reinstated their daily 10 minute meetings.

She called the transition counselor and they are planning to talk tomorrow to set up a time for Jon to meet with her.  This week Sherr will be following up with the DORS counselor (still no word), and she will also follow up with her electrician friend to see if he can put in a good word for Jon at the electrician’s union.

PEERS: Week 8

Last week’s topic in PEERS was about entering group conversations, so naturally this week is about exiting them!

It’s important to know how to exit a conversation gracefully, whether you’re accepted into the group or not.  The students learned that on average, 50% of attempts to enter group conversations aren’t successful. This is a great statistic to keep in mind — when they aren’t accepted into a group they don’t have to take it personally.  It’s actually a great reminder for all of us! Here’s a list of some reasons a person might not be accepted into a group conversation, and things to try differently the next time:

  • They want to talk privately (try again later and listen before you join)
  • They are rude or mean (forget them….try a different group)
  • You broke one of the rules for entering (try again later, and follow the steps)
  • You got too personal (try a different group, don’t get too personal)
  • They’re a clique & don’t want to make new friends (Boo! Their loss…try a different group)
  • They’re talking about something you don’t know about (try a different group that’s talking about something you know)
  • You have a bad reputation with them (try a different group that doesn’t know or care about your reputation)
  • They didn’t understand that you were trying to join (try again later, following the steps)

It turns out there are three different scenarios for exiting conversations, based on the group’s response to you.

Steps when you are never accepted:

  1. Keep your cool
  2. Look away
  3. Turn away
  4. Walk away

Steps when you are initially accepted, then excluded:

  1. Keep your cool
  2. Look away
  3. Wait for a BRIEF pause
  4. Give a BRIEF cover story for leaving
  5. Walk away

Steps when you are fully accepted:

  1. Wait for a pause
  2. Give a SPECIFIC cover story for leaving
  3. Say you’ll see them later
  4. Say goodbye
  5. Walk away

The students had a great time practicing the different scenarios. Entering and exiting a group conversation can be tricky for anyone and I think it’s great that they are practicing these skills AND it “normalizes” the idea that their attempts to enter group conversations aren’t always going to be successful. With an average failure rate of 50%, we should all expect to have unsuccessful attempts. It’s perfectly fine to just move on to the next group and try again.

This week the students will practice entering and exiting conversations with us (their social coaches) and they will also practice entering and exiting conversations with peers.

Parental Resources

Today’s post, by Joy and Josh, highlights their experience with Matt’s hospitalization, and describes how having a special needs child can impact a family’s resources. Many of us haven’t had to navigate the mental health system, but we can all relate to the emotional and financial challenges associated with raising a child with a disability. Like Joy and Josh, I’ve often wondered about families who aren’t emotionally or financially equipped to help their special needs children (and wonder what could be done to help these families)…

In today’s blog post, we return to the issue of parental resources (financial, time, emotional) when supporting a child or children with special needs. While the focus of this blog is on transition to adulthood, it is worthwhile sometimes to review the situations that families can find themselves in, long before the child is of transition age. This is because these situations can have long-term ramifications for these families.  

About 10 years ago, as a result of unsafe behavior and statements, Matt had been hospitalized for about 10 days at a Hospital That Specializes in Children (HTSC).  Matt’s outpatient psychiatrist recommended to the HTSC that they discharge him to a Residential Treatment Center (RTC), which is a longer-term residential setting that provides long-term support for children in need.  

At that moment, there were no beds ready at the RTC, but given the safety issues we had with Matt, we did not want to bring him back home from HTSC. HTSC, however, was unwilling to keep Matt any longer. After the 10 day stay, they called us to say he was being discharged, and informed us that if we refused to pick him up they would report us to Child Welfare, charge us with neglect, and would bill us directly $5000 per day (would no longer bill insurance).

With no other options, we picked Matt up and tried to take him to NLH (Nearby Large Hospital) but they would not accept him because he had just been discharged from the HTSC.   So we had to bring Matt home, and spent a terrifying and tense three weeks until a bed opened at the RTC.

Later, we were told by the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) and others that we should have had a lawyer available to help us with the situation with Matt and the HTSC.  NAMI is an excellent nonprofit organization that supports families of mentally ill individuals. We did contact a law firm who specializes in these types of issues and they have been excellent in helping us to navigate the complex residential system of RTCs, group homes, and transitional facilities for Matt since that time.

But, as Joy and I like to say, “our best advocates are the ones that we pay”.  All of the professionals who have been most helpful to us and our children have been those that are directly paid by us.  This includes the occupational therapist that Matt saw when he was 3, the “shadow” that worked with him in preschool, an educational consultant, lawyers, psychiatrists, and therapists.  Since much of this has not been covered by insurance, it is a daunting financial challenge and the other kids wonder why we rarely go on vacation. But of course we wonder—what happens to families who don’t have these kinds of resources?   In future blog posts we will continue to discuss these themes and would be interested in any thoughts from the group on how these families can be helped.