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SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT: Finding Friends | Social Skills Groups | Sensory Friendly Venues/Events | Recreational Activity Guide

Social Skills Groups/Programs

Some autistic individuals need an extra boost to prepare them to navigate the social world. Social skills groups and programs can help these individuals learn how to form connections, practice conversational skills, deal with teasing and bullying, and handle a variety of social situations. Below are some local offerings. Inclusion in this directory does not constitute an endorsement.

PEERS®        Unstuck and On Target®        Other Social Skills Groups

The Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS®) 

The Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS®) provides evidence-based social skills training designed for preschoolers, adolescents, and young adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, depression, and other socio-emotional problems.

First developed at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), by PEERS® Clinic director Dr. Elizabeth Laugeson, the program has expanded to locations across the United States and around the globe. PEERS® offerings in Montgomery County include:


Alliance Pediatrics

PEERS® Social Program for Tweens & Teens

Ages: Middle and high school students

Location: Meets virtually

Website: www.alliancepediatrics.com

Contact: administration@alliancepediatrics.com

Social program that follows the UCLA PEERS curriculum combined with social thinking and other supportive therapeutic interventions to maximize social growth. Topics include: entering and exiting conversations, dealing with teasing/taunting/bullying, communicating with peers via text/phone/chat, choosing friend groups, learning tools to build friendships into meaningful relationships, appropriate use of humor, planning and going to hangouts, and dealing with rejection.

Sessions are typically offered in the fall and spring. Sessions run 13 weeks with a three-month follow up. Participants must complete a 20-minute meet-and-greet to ensure that the student and family can benefit from the program. Email: administration@alliancepediatrics.com to apply.


Center for Anxiety and Behavioral Change

PEERS® for Young Adults

Ages: 18–35 years old; high school graduate or equivalent

Location: Meets virtually

Website: www.changeanxiety.com

Contact: Dr. Katie Gifford, drgifford@changeanxiety.com

PEERS for Young Adults is an evidence-based program for motivated young adults who are interested in making and keeping friends and/or navigating romantic relationships. Young adults and social coaches (parents or other caregivers) attend 16 weekly group sessions for 90 minutes each week. The young adults are taught social skills through didactic lessons and role-play demonstrations; they practice these skills during group socialization activities. Social coaches attend separate sessions simultaneously and are taught how to assist young adults in making and keeping friends and/or dating.

Please email Dr. Katie Gifford, drgifford@changeanxiety.com, to apply. There is a screening phone call to check for correct fit with the group and then a one-time intake interview.


Center for Assessment And Treatment 

PEERS® for Teens

Ages: 13–18

Location: 8401 Connecticut Ave, Suite 1000, Chevy Chase, MD 20815

Website: www.caatonline.com/peers-social-skills-groups/

Contact: Munny Khura; MKhurana@caatonline.com; 240-424-0184

This is a 16-week, evidence-based social skills intervention for motivated teens in middle and high school interested in learning ways to make and keep friends. Teens learn social skills through didactic instruction, live demonstrations by trained coaches, and extensive practice via group play activities such as sports, board games, etc., while receiving real-time, individualized coaching from clinical staff. Parents attend weekly group sessions, held simultaneously with the client group, where they learn how to assist their teen by providing feedback and coaching for weekly socialization homework assignments.

PEERS® for Young Adults

Ages: 18–30

Location: 8401 Connecticut Ave, Suite 1000, Chevy Chase, MD 20815

Website: www.caatonline.com/peers-social-skills-groups/

Contact: Munny Khura; MKhurana@caatonline.com; 240-424-0184

This is a 16-week evidence-based social skills intervention for motivated young adults who are interested in learning ways to make and keep friends, navigate social interactions, handle conflict and rejection, and develop romantic relationships. Young adults learn social skills by didactic and role-play models, and then practice in a group session while receiving immediate, individualized coaching from clinical staff. Parents attend weekly group sessions, held simultaneously with the client group, where they are taught how to assist their young adult by providing feedback through social coaching during weekly socialization homework assignments.


Center for Communication and Learning

PEERS: Adolescents/Young Adults

Ages: Teens, young adults

Location: Meets virtually or in person at 6208 Montrose Rd., Rockville, MD 20852

Website: https://www.ccl-md.com/

Contact: Susan Abrams; susanabramsslp@gmail.com; 301-468-9343 x2

This is a 14-week, 1.5-hour evidence-based social skills intervention for adolescents with social challenges. During each group session, adolescents and young adults are taught important skills and are given the opportunity to practice these skills during socialization activities. Parents attend separate sessions focused on assisting their teens in making and keeping friends. Parents learn to help expand their teen’s social network and provide feedback. 


MoCo PEERS®

MoCo PEERS® POWER PEERS® Groups

Ages: Teens and young adults

Location: Virtual or Starobin Counseling, 18213 Hillcrest Ave., Olney, MD 20832
Website: www.starobincounseling.com

Contact: Caron Starobin, LCSW-C; caron@starobincounseling.com; 301-417-5979

MoCo PEERS® groups emphasize learning, rehearsing, and practicing social skills in a warm, supportive, enjoyable, and focused group setting. Group members support each other to take risks with their peers as they learn and practice skills to improve their relationship skills. The groups also include social coaching sessions for parents or family members. These sessions support parents and family members by teaching them how to be effective social coaches with teens and young adults whom require a greater sense of independence during this time in their lives. The MoCo PEERS® Program offers a modified PEERS® schedule of fewer than 16 weeks to allow a smaller time commitment for families and to focus on relevant topics. The groups are coordinated by Caron Starobin, LCSW-C and Jamell White, Ph.D., LCSW-C, who select the curriculum based on the needs of the students in the group and based on their clinical experience of which topics are most useful and which topics are less relevant in the lives of the participants of PEERS®. In addition, the MoCo PEERS® POWER Group offers a combination of group sessions and individual coaching sessions for students and parents to customize the experience while also offering a group process. For more information, click here.

Sessions typically offered in fall and spring; 8–10 weeks per session. MoCo PEERS has an application form and a face-to-face screening process (virtual or in-person). Apply here.


Unstuck and On Target®

Unstuck and On Target® is a social intervention program to improve executive functioning, on-task and flexible behaviors. The evidence-based curriculum is designed to improve flexibility in children with autism and ADHD. The curriculum was developed by staff at Ivymount School’s Model Asperger Program and the Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders at Children’s National Hospital. The curriculum is used by several MCPS special education programs and is offered locally by these providers: 


Center for Assessment And Treatment 

Unstuck and On Target® High School

Ages: High school age

Location: 8401 Connecticut Ave, Suite 1000, Chevy Chase, MD 20815

Website: caatonline.com

Contact: Munny Khura; MKhurana@caatonline.com; 240-424-0184

Unstuck and on Target© High School is a research-based curriculum designed to improve flexibility in high school-aged teens with autism and ADHD. Students engage in highly interactive activities, while the adults participate in sessions that combine lecture, role playing and observation of the teen group. Topics include identifying and understanding individual strengths and challenges; how to be an effective self-advocate; finding motivation; transferring accommodations from IEP or high school to a college environment; managing time; setting long-term and short-term goals; evaluating obstacles and making a Plan B. For more details, click here.

Unstuck and On Target® Elementary School

Ages: 8–11

Location: 8401 Connecticut Ave, Suite 1000, Chevy Chase, MD 20815

Website:  caatonline.com

Contact: Munny Khura; MKhurana@caatonline.com; 240-424-0184

The Unstuck and On Target® curriculum is a 12-week program designed to improve flexibility in children with autism and ADHD. The program includes moderated groups for both clients and parents, where each learn strategies they can work on together to improve generalization of skills. While children engage in group activities, the adults participate in clinical sessions that combine lecture, role playing and observation of the child group — enabling them to apply Unstuck skills in everyday scenarios, from morning routines to getting homework done. Topics include how to: handle unexpected events; cope with disappointment and frustration; keep an open mind; navigate disagreements with friends; distinguish a “big deal” from a “little deal”; compromise; self advocate; and be a successful group member. Sessions typically offered in the fall and the spring. For more details, click here.


Ivymount Outreach Programs

Unstuck and on Target; Applied Unstuck

Ages: 7–14

Location: 11614 Seven Locks Road, Rockville, MD 20854

Website: www.ivymountoutreach.org

Contact: outreach@ivymount.org

This semester-long “Unstuck and on Target” program focuses on topics such as self-advocacy, compromise, how to be a friend, emotional self-identification, executive functioning skills, verbal and non-verbal social cues, how to be a successful member of a group, and flexibility. Parents attend simultaneous weekly sessions.

Students who complete the program, can continue on to Ivymount’s “Applied Unstuck” group. This group offers students who have gone through the basic Unstuck and On Target program opportunities to practice their new skills. Parents and students will work together to generalize the skills, by practicing together how to be flexible and make plans. Parents will be provided with a weekly home connection and they will be invited to three workshops.


Additional Social Skills Groups/Programs

Alliance Pediatrics

Club Alliance Social Emotional Program

Ages: 8–12

Location: Gaithersburg, MD
Contact: club@alliancepediatrics.com

Website: www.alliancepediatrics.com

This therapeutic social-emotional program covers: identifying one’s strengths and goals, recognizing emotions as they present in physical sensations, different intensities of emotions, individual triggers for big emotions, how thoughts relate to emotions, self-calming strategies, benefits of nutrition and exercise on overall well-being, dealing with teasing and bullying, different levels of friendship, joining and sustaining play, conflict resolution for social issues, conversation skills, others’ perspectives, and “foggy thinking” (i.e., cognitive distortions) and how it impacts social situations. Growth mindset language, gratitude, and mindfulness are incorporated into each session. When needed, scribing and other modifications are provided for participants to enhance comprehension of content.

Nine-week sessions with a three-month follow-up. Sessions typically offered in fall, spring, and summer. There is an application process to ensure child and family will benefit from the program in a small group setting.


Center for Assessment And Treatment 

Superheroes Social Skills
Ages: 6–9

Location: 8401 Connecticut Ave, Suite 1000, Chevy Chase, MD 20815

Contact: Munny Khura.; MKhurana@caatonline.com; 240-424-0184

Website: caatonline.com/superheroes-social-skills/

Superheroes Social Skills is a 12-week evidence-based curriculum for elementary aged children designed to improve their social skills.  The curriculum uses a multimedia approach including the use of video instruction, short, animated clips, and comic books to teach specific skills. Children also practice new skills by engaging in role-plays, in-group practice, and games that are moderated by the group facilitators. Each week participants will be given practice assignments so they can use their skills at home or in community settings.

Superheroes includes a weekly parent group where parents learn how to assist their child by providing feedback/coaching for weekly practice assignments. Weekly attendance for parents/caregivers is a program requirement.


Center for Communication and Learning

Be Social Kids

Ages: Various programs for preschool age through adolescents and young adults

Location: Meets virtually or in person at 6208 Montrose Rd., Rockville, MD 20852

Website: www.ccl-md.com/

Contact: Susan Abrams; susanabramsslp@gmail.com; 301-468-9343 x2

Be Social Kids programs assist children in developing social thinking skills to enhance their ability to navigate the social world at school and at home. The programs focus on helping children understand the “why” behind social skills, emphasizing  concepts and strategies that help individuals understand social expectations, explore thoughts and feelings, and learn how to form connections with their peers. Click here for a listing of the various programs.


Fitness for Health

Relationship & Self-Esteem Building; B-Social Therapeutic Program

Ages: 4–12

Location: 11140 Rockville Pike, Ste. 303, Rockville, MD 20852
Contact: (301) 231-7138; info@fitnessforhealth.org
Website: www.fitnessforhealth.org

Fitness for Health offers state-of-the-art equipment with innovative approaches to exercise, helping people of all ages and abilities enjoy the benefits of physical activity while having fun. The facility teams up with two different organizations to offer programs that combine fitness with social skills. In collaboration with Growing Minds Center for Child and Family Therapy, Fitness for Health offers the Relationship & Self-Esteem Building program that focuses on teamwork, frustration tolerance, and effective communication. Fitness for Health also frequently offers social skills programs with the Center for Communication and Learning, including the B-Social Therapeutic Summer Program, which helps kids build social skills and motor development.

Social Grace

Elementary, Middle, and High School Social Groups

Ages: 6–19

Locations: Virtual or in-person in Arlington, VA; tentative plans to offer in-person groups in Bethesda, MD, starting in 2023

Contact: (703) 829-6394; hello@socialgracellc.com 

Website: socialgracellc.com/group-programs

Social Grace offers elementary, middle, and high school social groups to teach neurodiverse kids the tools and strategies needed to thrive throughout childhood and into adulthood. Topics include making and keeping friends, working with others, conversational skills, managing anxiety, flexibility, compromise, self-awareness, problem-solving, conflict resolution, perspective-taking, self-advocacy, and self-regulation/coping strategies. Social Grace also offers one-on-one social coaching, focused on building and developing social competencies and overcoming anxiety. 


Stepping Stones Therapy

Social and Pragmatic Language Skills Groups

Ages: Various ages

Location: Bethesda, MD
Contact:  bethc@steppingstonestherapy.com

Website: www.steppingstonestherapy.com

Groups are run by speech and language pathologists and focus on social and pragmatic language skills. Each group has 2–6 students of similar age and ability level. Each student must participate in a free 15–20 minute virtual or in-person screening to identify whether there’s an appropriate group to meet their individual needs. Groups meet after school on an ongoing basis.


The Treatment and Learning Centers

Therapeutic Social Interaction Groups

Ages: 3–15

Location: 2092 Gaither Rd., Ste. 100, Rockville, MD 20850
Contact: bbaker@ttlc.org301-424-5200

Websitewww.ttlc.org

Occupational therapists and/or licensed counselors lead groups of two to four children, based on their age group.  Groups focus on developing and improving communication, social interaction, and sensory motor skills.


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