Keep Teen Club going! It's the best program for Sean. With Teen Club he's treated with respect and not like he's different. His confidence level is so much better. He feels good about himself, that he can so things without Mom.
I've gotten valuable information from the monthly parent meeting, especially now that Andy has become a teenager and is facing so many changes. Teen Club has made Andy feel so happy and connected that he is becoming the independent young man he has the potential to become. It's brought him confidence and ease in public.
I'm so proud of him!
Teen Club has created a safe environment that my child can explore social interactions without feeling out of place.
Drew loves Teen Club! It has changes his life. He has made new friends and he enjoys all the activities. He feels very valued.
Teen Club is a socialization training program for teens, 13-17 years of age, with mild to moderate social and communication challenges to help build friendships, self-confidence, and independence in the community through the use of DIR® principles:
D = Developmental I = Individual Differences R = Relationship-Based
A key feature of our Teen Club program is that the teens themselves plan and evaluate their own community activities, with staff guidance. We meet one weeknight evening each week, where subgroups of 3-6 teens brainstorm, propose ideas, persuade, listen to each other, and make decisions as a group. Every Saturday morning they meet in the community to implement the activities they've planned, which may focus on community service, socialization training, or pre-vocational interests. Small groups of three pair up with various other groups so all the teens get a chance to work and have fun with each other. Sometimes just three teens go with one facilitator. Some activities are planned weeks in advance, and some (such as a car wash) may involve the whole Teen Club with up to 40 members.
Facilitators do not do things for the teens they can do themselves. Rather than organizing the activities or telling the teens what to do, facilitators ask them, "Now what?" The teens gain the self-confidence that comes from assessing the situation, talking it over, making a group decision, and taking the initiative to interact with familiar and unfamiliar peers and adults. These skills transfer over to other community interactions and life skills, such as ordering and paying for a restaurant meal, or making phone calls to find out what hours an establishment is open.
An important aspect of building group cohesion is making the effort to understand one another and how we perceive the world. We help the teens recognize that what is challenging for one person may be different from what is hard for another. We encourage the teens to understand each other's individual differences and to make compensations, whether that means listening more closely, speaking more loudly or more softly, or encouraging a soft-spoken peer to make her views known. Teen Club establishes an environment for positive identity formation within the supportive group.
In an atmosphere of acceptance and camaraderie, the teens have a powerful sense of "belonging," which in many cases they may have had great difficulty finding in school or other community settings. These growing relationships between peers are the heart of Teen Club. Expressing affect in a way that can help meet the needs of the group is a task for both staff and the teens themselves. High affect keeps meetings lively and interesting, and it encourages active banter, conversation, and kidding around between the teens that is highly conducive to socialization. When a new member arrives they are greeted with high energy and positive affirmation. It's up to the staff to set the tone for these spirited interactions.
To be able to participate, the teens must be able to regulate their emotional states well enough to be able to function in a complex social environment and be safe in the community with a 1:3 staff ratio. Some teens may have difficulty maintaining self-regulation as their excitement level increases. Usually feedback from the other teens, as well as empathic support from staff, can help a teen manage their strong feelings and overflow movements so they can continue to participate fully. Left, a teen shares a calm moment with a dog during a community service activity at a no-kill shelter. To do this she had to regulate her emotional arousal while processing the intense sights, sounds, smells, and interactive demands of functioning in a limited space with dozens of barking dogs .
Shared pleasurable activities provide an important foundation for building trust and bonding relationships. In the photo at right, the teens are reading maps and negotiating to plan their day at the zoo, deciding together where they want to go. Other activities that help build cohesiveness and socialization skills include picnics, parties, hiking, Frisbee golf, and other sports tournaments.
Teen Club is a place to practice the back-and-forth of social conversation, with non-judgmental peers who are developing similar skills. In planning activities, they negotiate and engage in social problem solving, presenting ideas, persuading, and considering each other's viewpoints. Above, the teens discuss ideas for a long-term community service project. They brainstorm in a large group then break into smaller groups to negotiate and decide how to resolve their differences, taking part in groups of varying complexity .
In addition to reviewing previous activities and planning future events, weeknight meetings provide opportunities to discuss important topics and feelings, such as transitioning to a new school, dealing with teasing and bullying, or preparing for adult living. Some topics can be addressed through role plays, where small groups act out situations for the other teens, including trying out different responses and exploring possible outcomes of each. Other topics of discussion include self-advocacy and understanding our strengths and challenges.
Like most teenagers, Teen Club members are beginning to contemplate their transition to the adult world, developing their own values and sense of personal identity. These tasks require some new ways of thinking:
Multicausal thinking (VII)
Understanding other perspectives, considering multiple viewpoints, combining ideas, negotiating, and supporting other's ideas is part of Teen Club.
Differentiated grey area thinking (VIII)
Not everything is black and white. For instance, when you role play the part of a bully, you may begin to feel the bully is very angry, but maybe he's also feeling insecure. A puppy at the shelter may be happy sitting your lap, but may also be a bit sad.
Internalized standard of self over time (IX)
Teen Club members are beginning to contemplate their transition to the adult world, developing their own values and sense of personal identity. What kind of person am I? What's truly important to me? How does this affect what I will do with my life? In Teen Club, we explore evolving values and interests and how they can suggest potential vocations or career paths. The teens plan pre-vocational activities based on their interests. For instance, a teen who is interested in forensic science helped plan a visit to meet the detectives at a local police station. Above, a teen completes her first practice job interview at a community-wide Teen Job Fair.
Teen Club Discussions are an important component of the weekday, evening meeting, in which the Teens are able to discuss topics, such as those listed here. The discussions are based upon questions, and practice scenarios. Facilitators encourage full participation by all the teens, and ensure respectful and sensitive discussion.
Teen Club is a socialization training program designed for teens with mild to moderate learning, communication and social challenges who are able to function independently and in small groups, and be safe in the community. Parents provide transportation to activities. Our aims are to support independence, gain confidence in the community, explore pre-vocational interests, and build strong, reciprocal friendships.
Teen Club is vendored with Regional Center, Vendor # PD1874, SVC 028.
For more information, please call Jennifer Aceves at (626) 793-7350 x222