Social Skills Groups & Therapists
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Social Skills Groups & Therapists
3-5 year olds
My son will be five in June and goes to pre-k this year.
Before that, he was home with me and we had many
playgroups that we would attend. He has never had much of
an interest in other kids though. It became very obvious
since he's been in school this year. The first half of
the year, he really didn't play with any of the other
kids. He has a very vivid imagination and his pretend
games are quite elaborate so I suspect that he doesn't
know how to include other kids in things that exist mostly
in his head. His teachers think that he's gifted. In
January, another little boy came into his class that seems
to join into his games pretty easily and they are
virtually inseparable at school. When the other little
boy isn't at school, my son is almost hostile to the other
kids. He yells at them a lot to do what he wants them to
do. His teacher tries to tell him that they won't want to
play with him if he isn't kind to them but he says that he
doesn't want to play with them anyway. I'm getting
concerned that his social awkwardness is getting worse and
I don't know how to help him. He seems content to play
alone for now but I'm afraid that as he gets older, he'll
feel alienated and will only struggle more. I just don't
know what to do or even what I can do. I appreciate any
advice you can offer!
If you don't mind the commute to the Park District, take him
to see Maria Antoniadis PhD. Her office is on Leimert St in
Oakland( recently moved from Regent St in Berkeley) Look for
her new office number on the web. She does her own social
skills classes for kids. She's beyond fab and won't waste
your time.If you meet her once, you'll understand why I say
You may want to look into social skills groups from
Communication Works in Oakland: http://www.cwtherapy.com/
Have you heard of Communication Works in Oakland? They do a
marvelous job of working with kids in a playful and
effective way to improve social skills. Your son sounds like
he could really benefit from some therapy to teach him to to
be a part of a group and make friends. Gifted kids really
benefit from the social thinking groups they offer.
They have some very practical tools you can use at home and
he can use at school. They also support parents in
supporting their kids. Website - http://www.cwtherapy.com/
phone - 510-639-2929.
I have a boy who will become 5 years old in March and he is attending
4 days a week in a preschool for 3 hours per day. Since he started the
preschool, he has found a friend with whom he'd like to play with, but
as the other boy is a quite popular figure and my son had problems to
incorporate himself into the play of the crowd surrounding this
particular kid, he has been always left out in their play. A year ago,
he had problems for being destructive when he tried to join the other
kids when they were playing (such as knocking down an elaborately
built castle, or pushing somebody suddenly to get the attention), now
he is making less trouble simply because he has learned to avoid
trying to play with other kids. When he had his favorite friend to
play with him alone, they can have a good time, but when other kids
come to join, he just leaves and goes to his own corner and has
stopped trying to stay to play in the group. He is a sensitive boy,
not very shy and can be very talkative, I think part of the reason why
he is not ''popular'' is because he just want to put things through
his way and doesn't know how to listen and doesn't really understand
the social cue the others are sending to him. For this reason
sometimes he can be very angry and frustrated and get into more
trouble. I am wondering as a parent, how I can help him to improve his
social skills. I am tired of repeating the same lines and just feel
that things are not getting better and maybe he is going to be a
lonely and sad kid in the kindergarten? Any ideas will be very
A concerned mother
Sounds like my son. The DX here was anxiety and depression--with any
social skill issue (Aspergers, Non verbal learning disorder, etc)
ruled out. I waited for such a long time (age 7) to get him
assessed. Please, don't wait. It's really a stressor for YOU to have
to keep wondering. I'd offer a doc, but I am new here. I have no clue
who to go to here.
It sounds like your son would benefit from doing one-on-one playdates, if he's
not already doing them. My experience is that having that time out of school
really strengthen relationships inside school. He can then practice keeping up
continuity when stresses occur. Good luck!
Check with the Epworth Church in Berkeley. I believe they have a very
affordable parent run playgroup for children that need more support with
Try a social skills group for your son. Communication
Works in Oakland is rated very highly and our son has
benefitted from his sessions there. There are other social
skills groups in the area, but this is the one we use.
I could have written your post two years ago. My son will
turn 7 in March. He was in FT daycare & preschool until
Kindergarten and his social skills were quite a challenge.
He was advanced physically and intellectually. Adept,
energetic, super smart, but get him in a crowd of kids and
the problems started. Luckily, he wasn't violent, but he got
frustrated if kids came into his space and would get angry
and during circle time he wanted to goof around. He ran
around with the kids outside, but I never felt like he was
bonding to anyone and he would do things like kick over a
sandcastle. I was told it was because he just didn't know
how to play with groups of kids. So, we worked with him. I
had him evaluated by two psychologists (once when he was 4
and again at 6). And, basically, they told me he was fine,
but we just had to work on social skills. No ADD, ADHD, or
anything like that. It was a slow process, and I'm finding
he was a bit better in kindergarten and even better in first
grade. We gave him words for his emotions (oh, you must be
very angry because Johnny broke your building, when I'm
angry my head gets hot and I want to shake my fists in the
air). Helpful books were 123 Magic and Your Explosive Child.
I also think that for my kid, he needed structure. He does
so much better when he has a routine, boundaries, rules and
knows what's going to happen or what should happen. He
responds to having things taken away when he's on a
downslide. We chose big group gatherings carefully (didn't
go to every birthday party and had small ones for him). When
he his behavior starts to get out of control at school, I
eliminate screen time. It's a ''punishment'' to him, but it
also calms him down (we also limit screen time anyway). I
spend a lot of time playing games with him where he has to
learn how to take his turn (he also has a little sister and
this has helped his patience). I give him time alone. He
needs time to be a mad scientist in his room where he builds
elaborate lego contraptions (catapults, bridges). I decided
that if he's going to be the quirky, geeky type, so be it.
He's making more friends, and they seem to all be emerging
geeky types. GREAT, in my book. Honor your child for who he
is. Give it time. They change so much from 4-7 and I think
he'll be fine. People will probably say change his diet or
whatever, but I think that all kids learn different skills
at different rates. If anything the psychologist was great
for ME to help me parent because I felt like I was doing
A social skills therapy playgroup might really help your
son. We had a wonderful experience at Communication Works
in Oakland (http://cwtherapy.com/) when my son was about
that age. The groups are small, around 3-4 kids, and the
therapists there are excellent. It's play based and very
fun; my son always had a good time and enjoyed his group.
And every session ends with a parent wrap-up where the
therapist explains what the kids worked on and how you can
help to develop that skill at home. They do the Superflex
curriculum, which really helped our son learn how to think
of others. It was a huge help and a great experience for
the whole family.
A fellow concerned mom
I read your post and felt like we have the same kid,
except that mine is now in kindergarten. It's still been
an ongoing endeavor, and the main limitations are just
like what you've been experiencing: not listening well,
lack of social maturity, not willing to play with others'
rules. My kid is otherwise bright, fun-loving, and
creative. We learned at his conference that he needs to
find multiple ways to make friends at school, b/c his
peers don't really know him; i.e., they're puzzled when he
cries over little things. So far that's included
sending ''letters'' through the classroom mailbox, bringing
a small game with play with others, helping him think of
ways to be helpful to others. It felt good to know of
concrete ideas as opposed to ''repeating the same lines.''
Good luck to you. It made me feel a lot relieved to know
there's others with these issues.
Hi-Social skills are a struggle for many kids including my
son. I recommend finding a social skills class for him.
Communication Works is located in Oakland
(http://www.cwtherapy.com) and offers such classes (not
sure if they are covered by insurance since we have
Kaiser, but I think are covered under health care
reimbursement plans). Also, Kaiser Union City has
wonderful classes for social skills, anger managment, etc.
There is also a quest camp in the EastBay
which we haven't used but looked interesting. I highly
recommend finding a class where he can learn expected
behaviors, tools to intereact, read social cues and an
environment to practice them. You may find that he may
need several kinds of classes as he will be able to grasp
the concepts more firmly as he gets older. You may also
find that there is an underlying reason why this is
happening that he can't articulate - anxiety, attention
issues, auditory processing, etc. It's been a long
journey for us with our son, but at 9 things are
improving, but we still have to remind him and discuss
expected behaviors and giving others the chance to talk as
well as incorporating their ideas during play (rather than
doing it his way). I hope this helps.
Does anyone have any views on communications works? I am
thinking of sending my 'autistic like' 3 year old son to a
social skills group. Thanks for any help.
I think it is great you are thinking of your child and identifying
him so young as needing some help with social skills and reading
those ''tricky'' social cues many don't get particularly ''autistic
like'' children. There are several main places to go in the East Bay
that I know of; Communication Works, Shelly Henerson and Debra
Mcklosky. Where ever you go i'd ask alot about how much expereince
the person/ group has with 3 year olds. If you go to Communication
Works ask who is would be working with your child and how much
experience do they have with 3 year olds ( it is different from
working with a 7 year old). Shelly Henderson is also quite good. I
do not know if she has worked with children that young. Debra
Mcklosky is seasoned very good and I do not know if she has time.
YOu may wish to notice whether your child has sensory processing
issues. This is usual wtih autistic like children. ( over or under
senstive to senses, touch seeking or avoidant or both, smells,
tastes, stimulation etc).
It is sooo good that you are loooking into this now. So many
children don't get services until later. Speech pragmatics I think
is an excellent place to start. Autistic and autistic like chidlren
do not read not verbal signals and more than 90% of our language is
non verbal. So they do not know how to play, initiate and interact
with their peers and or adults. Social Thinking. com ( Winners work
I wish you the best on your journey. I think intervention and early
intervention can make such a difference. These youth really do want
to connect they just don't understand how to. Speech pragmaticsgives
them an overview, practise and a step by step plan which so helps all
of us and these kids even more. it is so cool when they start to get
a piece of the how to and they make a connection and learn to ''
think of you and think about me''
best to you!!!
Mom in the trenches too
I had a bad experience with Communication Works surrounding,
ironically, their communication. The 2nd social skills group into
which they placed my son was not a good fit, yet they tried to
pretend as though the fault was entirely my son's and refused to
admit to any ill judgment on their part. Then they proceeded to out
him from the group mid-session in a way I thought was both
unprofessional and disrespectful. I know other parents have been
happy with them, but I personally would not go back.
Just my 2 cents
My son has been in a preschool group at Communication Works for
a year now. We've found it to be extremely helpful; he's
learned a lot of friendship-making and social thinking skills,
and we've learned a ton about how to help him. He really looks
forward to going every week. I would definitely give it a try.
My son has participated in groups at CW and they are great. The
group is very structured and well planned and the therapists are
knowledgeable and fun. Also parents get some feedback on what
the kids worked on and how it went at the end of each session.
My personal view of Communication Works comes from our family
experience with 4 CW therapists' direct involvement with my son.
He's attended small socialization groups over the past 2 summers
& shown improvement in developing relationships thru sharing
therapeutic learning activities which are FUN. CW's resourceful
training to parents has helped me support his social skills
being carried over into other settings. He continues learning
communication thru thinking, awareness, body and verbal means; &
is signed up again this summer! 3 yrs. old is a prime time for a
child to benefit from such an opportunity as CW's specialization
in autism and related needs provides. Hope your son attends!
Communication Works is GREAT! They have been working with our
son since October on social skills and ''social thinking.''
(See Michelle Garcia Winner, author)
Our 4 yo son, although not autistic, has a lot of autistic like
qualities including problems with pragmatic language and social
Although not ''cured,'' over the last 6 months Communication
Works has built the foundation for him to improve his pragmatic
language and social skills. They also have trained we parents
to use the same skills with him at home. We see an improvement
in his relationships and predict it will only improve as
My hope is that Berkeley Unified can contract with them to
expand services throughout the district for all special needs
kids who need help with social learning.
Feel free to email me if you want more information.
We have been going to Communication Works in Oakland ( Keller
Ave area) for about 1.5 years now and I can not say enough about
them and their work with my son, who has sensory issues.
The problem we had was that there was so much going on with his
balance at 2-4 that he just didn't get all that non-verbal
communication stuff that other children/people just ''get''
Our whole extended family has been amazed with his progress. He
is able to hold a conversation, go places and have fun, and is
making friends at school and when we're out. Recently, we
started being asked for play dates by his school mates! Wow,
what a change from just six months ago.
Erica is our current therapist, but Elizabeth and Hillary and
all the therapists there are awesome.
They have also helped us in the classroom with observations and
training. I attended the training session and all of the
teachers told me how much they got out of it and that the
information really applied to all of their students.
The most profound changes that have come from the communication
classes is that my son is more aware of himself and his
behavior, and that he knows what is and is not expected in
different situations. Therefore, he is able to regulate his own
behavior and doesn't seem as much of an odd ball amongst his
peers. He is getting along, making friends on his own, and
having fun in different social situations.
They have small groups and match the kids up according to
developmental levels, age, gender, etc. We've always had good
experiences with their groups and are going to continue going
there throughout grammar school.
I have read that the earlier you get social skills help, the
quicker the child absorbs and internalizes the material. It is
beneficial at any age though, and I believe that they have
groups for older children and teens as well. Check out the
website for the summer session and open house.
A happy C.W. mommy
Our daughter has been participating in groups at CW for almost
one year. We sought them out initially because she had been
having some social trouble at school (interrupting other kids'
work, being called bossy). She has since been diagnosed with
We have been very happy with the groups at CW: the curriculum is
very accessible for kids (''social thinking''); the therapists
are kind, smart, professional, and direct; and our daughter
enjoys the other kids and likes attending group. The staff there
has also provided us with a lot of emotional support in moments
when we (as parents) were feeling overwhelmed by our daughter's
I think any kid can benefit from this kind of group, but
especially those kids who don't seem to intuitively ''get'' the
rules of the social world (which we as adults forget are sooo
My son has gone to Communication Works since he was in
kindergarten, and now he's in 4rth grade. He has always loved
going and has learned a lot of skills. Last year (3rd grade) he
didn't go and he had a horrible year (for a lot of different
reasons) and asked to go back to Friends Club (that's what we
call it). So he's back again this year and things have been
going much better. It gives him confidence and skills to deal
with socially baffling situations which otherwise are
overwhelming and are likely to turn out badly. I think EVERYONE
should take classes like this. I find the materials are useful
for ''grown-ups'' too,and they help us deal with situations at
home. The therapists do a good job of matching the kids up in
small groups so that they complement one another, and they keep
things fun. Highly recommend it!
My son has been attending classes at Communication Works for over a year now and
they are wonderful. In fact we drive all the way from Fremont to Oakland to
attend the classes. The staff and therapists are kind, well trained, and are very
dedicated to the kids. They really know their stuff. The classes are not only
great for the kids in and of themselves, but each week we, the parents, recieve
feedback on what has happened in class, how our kids are doing, and ideas and
strategies that we can use at home as well as share with other teachers,
caregivers, and therapists that our kids interact with. I highly recommend
Communication Works. I also recommend checking out www.socialthinking.com which
is Michelle Garcia Winner's website. All of the therapists at Communication Works
have been trained by her and use her methods.
My 5yo son has a mild social development delay. I'm looking for a coach/therapist
and/or group to help (me help) him with social skills. Any ideas?
Check out Communication Works in Oakland 510.639.2929. Our 8 yr. old has
been in a facilitated group for 2 years and it's helped our family
dynamics immensely. Archives:
I've seen the postings about social skills classes for older kids, but I
have a 4.5-year old who might need one. She is still having trouble with
aggression, patience, and turn-taking, and it's affecting her socially. We
work with a child psychologist, but we're thinking that it would be
beneficial for a professional to see her in a group situation. Is there
anything like this for preschoolers?
Call the Ann Martin Center in Oakland. They have a social
skills group for preschoolers, boys and girls. My son
participated at age 5 and we found it helpful. Ann Martin
Center is pricey but very good at what they do.
We just started our 8 year old with Dr. Kathryn McCarthy's
social skills group. She's a licensed clinical psychologist in
Berkeley and reportedly starts groups as early as preschool.
She works with a group on building social skills. 510-649-3399
Hi, my son has done social skills groups with Communication
Works and they were very helpful for the skills you mention. I
know they do have a group for 4yr olds. They have recently
moved to an office on Keller Ave in Oakland and have a new
phone number 510-639-2929. They also have a website
We need advice on how to help a big 5 year old boy who is smart
but doesn't read social cues very well. He gets into other
people's space, which makes kids react negatively. He has
trouble with conversational give and take. He seems unaware of
his body. It doesn't help that he's big for his age -- people
expect more mature behavior and when he's in your space, he's
big enough that you can't miss it.
He also tends to ask to do something with other kids which sets
him up for rejection. For example, he's with a group of kids
and he wants to hold hands with one kid (''Bob, can I hold your
hand?'' this reminds Bob that he'd rather hold hands with
another kid.) It would be pretty sophisticated, but if he
said ''Let's all hold hands!'' then everyone would have gone
along. We have worked with him NOT to ask ''can I play?'' (we
say ''kids like to say no'') but simply watch what a group is
playing and find a way to fit in with their play.
He is very focussed on what he wants to ask, repeating his
question with energy/anxiety until it's answered. Fine with
parents, but annoying in the real world.
It's not a major problem, but we'd like to give him some tools
for figuring out how to engage with people, so his interactions
are more positive. For example, we recently told him that he
should be an arm's length away from the person he's talking to.
But that's easier than finding good clues on more complex
social interaction. On a positive note, he often doesn't notice
the negative/ambivalent reactions, but he does notice outright
Any books or tricks that have worked for you? Thanks!
anon for his sake
I don't think your child is socially inept. In fact I think he
is very polite asking if he can play first and probably so
excited to do so gets even more in peoples spaces. Maybe you
could find a similar acting friend for now who it doesn't
bother, that way lessor friendships might not be so hurtful. I
would suggest role play. For example my child felt rejected the
other day when someone said his clothes were yucky. We thought
of empowering things for him to say such as ''Thats ok, only I
have to like my clothes.'' He practiced all week (He's 3) and it
really does work. Give him another choice than being hurt from
rejection and he will become empowered with great coping
Best thing we ever did for our socially clueless boy was get
him into some social skills classes, which we found through the
West Coast Children's Center. There are some in the Oakland
area too. The guy who taught our son's group at West Coast is
not there anymore, but has started a summer camp that is
supposed to be absolutely wonderful, called Ha-Ha This-a-way.
Still clueless, but learned a lot
Have you had your son tested for Asperger's Syndrome? It may be that his difficulty in
''reading'' cues is not simply something that can be cured with some quick behavior
advice. I'd suggest broaching the subject with your pediatrician, at least to rule it out.
A recent New Yorker articles suggested that bay area children are much more likely to
have Asperger's than anywhere in the country. Accordingly, many bay area doctors
are uniquely qualified to help your son if this is his issue. Start at http://
www.aspergers.com. Good luck.
Does anyone have experience with Elizabeth Sautter and Hillary
Kissack, speech and language pathologists? I am thinking of
enrolling my 5 1/2 y.o. son in their summer group to help him
with his social skills (eye contact, focused communication,
correct volume and proximity in conversation, picking up on
social cues). I would like to know what I can expect.
Our son is enrolled in one of their groups and I have nothing
but praise. The groups are structured, with the topics changing
each week but always related to social skills issues. All the
topics you mention are addressed. I think the structured
approach is definitely suitable for a 5-6 yr. old and also gives
him new skills practice in a supportive environment. Elizabeth
and Hillary encourage playdates within the group, to help form
Our wonderful eight year old daughter has just been
diagnosed with Asperger's and ADHD. She is currently in a
public school in the West Contra Costa district and is doing
fine academically, but has been having trouble making
friends. I'm wondering if anyone knows of any support
groups for girls with these diagnoses in the East Bay? I would love to
hear any advice you would be willing to share.
Thanks so much!
Hi , first I would suggest looking at Michelle Winner's website
www.socialthinking.com. Lots of information regarding kids, teens, and
adults who are bright, but socially clueless. Next, I would contact think
social east bay to find out if they have any openings ASAP. Good luck!
Mom of 10 year old with social issues
I am looking for a social skills building group for my 8
year old son who is having some social-related behavior
issues. Any recommendation is HUGELY appreciated.
My son has attended social skills groups at Communication Works and they
have been great. They are on Keller Ave in the Oakland Hills. The
website is cwtherapy.com or you can call 639-2929. I think you will
find the therapists and staff very helpful. laura
I am seeking a really good therapist run peer social skills group for my
9 yr. old son. He is having a very difficult time--or continues to have
a difficult time--in school with others. He was badly bullied through
out Kindergarten, I did not know about it for months. It consisted of
being physical overpowered and beat up repeatedly, humiliated and
ridiculed in front of others, made fun of for not being able to
physically do what some others were able to like running fast and jungle
gym bars and fine motor skills activities like writing. He's caught up
developmentally now but not with out a hatred of going to school,
anxiety, inappropriate boundaries, a chip on his shoulder and scars to
his self esteem. I've gone from being the mom of the victim to now
being the mom of the bully. Neither is good, both are painful,
especially for my son. We need help. There's not much support from the
public schools so I'm hoping to find him a supportive, therapeutic
group. Bullying is such a pervasive problem in schools--
we are living with the results. Still trying to nip the consequences in
the bud since Kindergarten.
Mom of a Victim Gone Bully
Jim Beatty's social skills groups for boys are particularly geared
towards this type of issues. While he is not perfect for everyone
- folks with kids ''on the spectrum'' are split as to whether his
approach is helpful - he is a kind and gentle man and the issues
you are describing are exactly the kinds of issues he deals with.
Worth checking out: http://www.hahathisaway.com
While it's not a social skills group per se, the pragmatic language
groups at Communication Works in Oakland may address some of the
same issues: http://www.cwtherapy.com/.
Richard King at Kids Space in SF facilitates social skills
groups. He groups children by age. My son really benefited
from the work he did with Richard.
Does anyone have any experience they'd be willing to offer
as to what are the best groups for kids with Asperger's? I
am wondeing about the Kaiser social skills group and would
love to hear any experiences anyone has had there. Any
other suggestions welcome as we are new to this diagnosis
and are looking for help. Support for me would be awesome
as well! Thank you!
My daughter got that diagnosis a couple of years ago. She's
been going to Maria Antoniades' social skills group
(510-665-9326) and I think that it's helped her a lot.
Maria is also very knowledgable about other resources in the
area, so she can point you to other possibilities as well.
Good luck. Ann
I would highly recommend to parent of child with Asbergers
Syndrome, psychologist Maria Antoniades, PhD in Berkeley.
She can provide assessment and treatment, including social
skills groups for kids on that spectrum. Her tel# is (510)
665-9326. Good luck! cynthia
My son, who is now 10 years old, has been attending groups
at Communication Works for several years and we've been very
pleased with all that our family has gained. The staff are
all well-trained and very invested in what they do, the
parent support is fabulous, and the children enjoy
themselves. Feel free to contact me via email; I would be
happy to go into more specifics and/or answer any questions
you might have. Best to you, Adrienne
I have had great experiences working with Communication
Works (office located in the Oakland Hills, see
http://www.cwtherapy.com/groups.html). They are one of the
few places that offer 'social thinking' instruction in
their social skills groups (see a description at
http://www.socialthinking.com). They are specialists in
working with children with Aspergers', High Functioning
Autism, and Nonverbal Learning Disorders. They also offer
occupational therapy for related sensory and behavioral/
emotional regulation issues. Behavior Savvy Educational
We have been very impressed with the social skills class my
son attends at Communication Works. We started in a class
with two other boys close to his age (6 & 7) last March.
Initially, I was afraid that being around other kids with
social issues would have a negative effect on my son's
behavior, but that has not been the case.
There is an excellent staff, they use the most up-to-date
research available, and also offer amazing lectures (both to
educators and parents). Beyond this, they help you learn an
entirely new vocabulary to more effectively communicate with
your child. I think best of all is the comraderie you
develop with other parents. Meeting parents who have kids
with similar issues and sharing our experiences, which
strategies, tools, and tricks work and which ones have
failed with our various children has been most helpful.
Best of luck no matter which program you choose
I'm wondering if anyone can recommend a really good social
skills group for a bright, energetic, and mostly happy boy of 9
1/2 who has a lot of challenges with social communication, he's
in the High functioning ASD/Aspergers range and has some
attention issues as well. We have tried Communications Works in
the past, but were ultimately not satisfied for various reasons,
mostly involving parent/teacher communication. I'm looking
ideally for a very professional, effective, empathic and dynamic
therapist, who works very well with kids like my son. Can anyone
tell me about their experiences with the groups run by Maria
Antonidias or by Kris Neugebauer, or let me know of any other
groups that they could recommend?
Looking for really useful Social Skills group
This recommendation will depend on when you were at CW. Shelly has done
productive and wonderful for our family.
My daughter is in a girls social skills group run by Kathryn McCarthy,
Phd (She's in a group practice with Maria Antonidas and Helmut
Relinger). She has been in the group for 1 1/2 years. Its
wonderful--she is thriving, we feel that Kathryn really understands
her, and our daughter cares very much about being a part of the group
and for the other kids in it. I highly recommend this therapist for
your child--she works with girls and boys in group and individual
We were really happy with Shelley Hanson www.thinksocialeastbay.net
because she communicated with us every week, gave us a binder, and
asked us to work on generalizing skills practiced in the group. Our son
has very similar characteristics to yours. Shelly is also dynamic and
kind. She did work at CW but has opened her private practice in
Oakland. She trained with Michelle Garcia Winner in the south bay.
I have no experience with Maria A., but our son did see her business
partner, Kathryn McCarthy, but we got so little feedback that we felt
it was not helpful.
good luck with your search.
My daughter is 10 years old. She is very bossy and uncompromising. She is
losing friends fast! Can anyone recommend a social skills group where my
daughter can learn how to share, play, and compromise?
I can highly recommend Maria Antoniades' group. Her number is
(510) 649-3399 and her office is on Regent Street, near Alta Bates.
I recommend Communication works in Oakland for social skills groups
- my son has attended and they were very good. They have a website
www.cwtherapy.com or call 639-2929.
My son has the same problem and for a long time I thought he was
mildly autistic. That was ruled out but he still has some of those
social skill issues. He has been attending a wonderful Social
Skills Group run by Communication Works. They are in the Oakland
Hills. It is run by two Speech Therapists and not only are they
kind, but are extremely effective. Their number is: 510-639-2929
and the website is: www.cwtherapy.com. If you check out the site,
my son is one of the poster boys. There are lots of books on
making and keeping friends. Start by googling social language.
Good Luck, this has really helped my son. Feel free to email me.
I would plan a playdate and stay close by. Help with her behaviors
when things get rocky. Don't allow her to be overbearing. Require
that she be kind to her guest, that she let her guest be treated
well, as a guest should be. You need to be her #1 support as you
are with her the most. Model socially acceptable behaviors with
your friends. What our children practice in the home is who they
are in their social circle. And talk to her. Kids do desire
friendships. If she understands that her behaviors are truly
causing her to lose friendships, I bet she'd be willing to make
Change begins at home
I am an educator and I've heard great things about the social
skills groups run by the people at Communication Works. They put
kids in groups according to their age, gender and specific needs so
there would probably be a group that is just right for your
daughter. Here's their website. Good luck!
I went to see Michelle Garcia Winner at Barnes and Noble last
week. She gave a talk about social thinking and social skills.
If you are not familiar with Michelle Garcia Winner you should
check out her website at www.socialthinking.com. Anyway, she
referred me to Shelly Hansen at Think Social Eastbay
(www.thinksocialeastbay.net). Apparently Shelly trained with
Michelle Garcia Winner and is running social groups in the
Oakland. I plan on bringing my son to her. Good luck.
I have a child with Asperger's and ADHD and I am looking for a social skills class in the
East Bay that is not full. Can anyone offer me some direction?
Vida Behavioral Solutions has social skills classes starting in March--there are still openings.
I am so excited! Last week I received a referral to a behaviorist named Dorine who has a new social skills
group starting on March 15th. She met with me and my 11 year old son (who has aspergers) and she said he
could join her group on 3/15!! She charges $45.00 per session. Call her, she may still have an opening.
Her name is Dorine Slocum #510-835-1272. She is in Oakland. Cute offices and she has a no-nonsense
that I think will work well with my child. Signed, happily
I've checked the archives and am considering the group led by
Elizabeth Sautter and Hillary Kissack. We're thinking of doing
the 8 week summer program. Our son's seven, and struggling a bit
socially. We are total newbies - any info on this particular
group or about social groups, etc. would be welcome. Thanks!
You might also be interested in the Superkids Summer Camp
program run by Andie Nguyen. She runs a facilitated, social
skills playgroup at Havens Elementary School in Piedmont during
the school year. You purchase the summer camp by the week
(it's a little pricey), but it's an all-day camp and I hear
it's a blast. She uses UC Berkeley and Piedmont High students
as counselors. They focus on taking kids on field trips to
different places during the summer. I don't have a number for
Andie, but you could get in touch with her through Havens: 594-
2680. Ask for Andie's cell phone number.
You might also want to check out Quest Camps run by Dr. Robert
Fields in CoCo County during the summer. Last year it was in
Alamo. These camps are more for ADD/ADHD type symptoms, as I
Finally, you could also call Kathryn McCarthy or Maria
Antoniadis at 649-3399. They run social skills groups for
children during the school year. I don't know if they have
anything going on in the summer
Also working on social skills
My son attended a social skills group with Elizabeth Sautter
and some other therapists in her practice when he was 8 several
years ago. He did learn some useful skills and also had a
great time - they make learning fun and he really enjoyed the
We are looking for a therapist that facilitates a group therapy
session for children. Our son is seven and is having difficulty
handling group situations at school. While he has met with
therapists before, he is very charming in one on one sessions
with adults, he needs guidance interacting with other kids. Our
concerns for him are: needing to be the center of attention;
short-tempered and impatient with other kids; and inappropriate
jokes and teasing that hurt others feelings. He has been
assessed by a therapist and learning specialist and has no
learning or behavioral diagnosis. He is also academically
advanced by a grade or two. Thanks for any recommendations the
community can offer.
Dr. Kathryn McCarthy in Berkeley (649-3399) helped my daughter
a great deal with similar issues, and my daughter has
maintained the gains she made in group 5 years ago.
I would like to find a therapist/councilor who runs groups for
kids- mine is fourth grade- who need to learn and practice social
skills and emotional sensitivity. My child has trouble making and
keeping friends. He uses inappropriate language and insults kids
in an attempt to be funny. He doesn't pick up on the effect he has
on others. He has anger issues at home. I think he's lonely and
frustrated that most of the other kids in school don't seek his
company. His dad and I have tried to guide him to more appropriate
behavior to no avail.
Dr. Annette Blackman facilitates a social development group at
the Berkeley YMCA. The group meets two fridays a month, from
6:30 to 7:30 p.m. The first half of that hour is spent sitting
around a table (with pizza) and practicing table conversation.
The second half is spent playing group games with YMCA staff.
This group is currently free and open to everyone. Many
families stay afterwards and participate in Family Night
activities. Most of the families involved have children between
the ages of 6 and 12, although some slightly older children have
come as well. Most of the children have been diagnosed with
Aspergers, high-functioning autism, or PDD. All children are
welcome, and children who have not been diagnosed with a
disorder often attend as well. If you would like more
information, please feel free to contact me. Eden O'Brien-
I feel for you, and I've been there too, and still am there,
really. My son had/has similar issues; not so much with anger,
but with totally inappropriate interactions, mostly at school,
but also at home. He can tease (and others don't like it) but
reacts too strongly to being teased. He can't sit still and
calls out in class, doesn't pay much attention to other people's
personal space, or when they are talking, and so on, thinks
everyone hates him and that he is a troublemaker. He was NOT
diagnosed ADD, and the BEST advice we got was to put him into a
social skills group, which seems to have helped tremendously
over the last couple of years. They gave strong positive
feedback for good social interaction, which is sometimes hard to
do at home, and everyone got a chance to discuss their
feelings. He started out hating it but ended up loving going.
School is still tough, no play dates after school yet, but he's
made good friends at camp and one good friend one from the
social skills group, where the interactions are different. So I
applaud the direction you're taking!
We used West Coast Children's Center
(click for rest of review).
Try the Ann Martin Center located on Piedmont Ave. They do a
variety of children's groups, including ones that are focused on
social development. They can be reached at 510.655.7880.
We have experience with only one of the following, Quest Camp, but think
that the others would do nicely for many children.
Quest Camp (San Ramon and Oakland sites), 925-743-1370 or
www.questcamps.com. Their next 10 week session begins 1/6. The sessions
are 2 hours long and, in Oakland, fall on Thursday afternoons. They also
have a spring session and a summer camp (all-day). The sessions are
play/sport based but offer the structure of behavior goals and tangible
rewards for accomplishment. Problems are sorted out at the time they occur
with the support and insights of trained psychologists.
David Edelson offers a facilitated group at the Jewish Family Services site
on Shattuck. His phone number is 704-7480, X267. The sessions are also
designed around play and two psychologists oversee the 1-1/2 hour
sessions. They are inside, so we opted for Quest Camp.
Maria Antoniadis (2999 Regent Street) and her associates offer group
support for children with social issues. She tends to get booked
quickly. It was she who told
us about Bob Field's Quest Camp.
The good news is that the camp environment has produced some remarkable
results in only the 10 weeks our son has been going. His experiences on the
playground are less problematic and he truly enjoys going each Thursday.
Hope this helps.
I just posted a announcement about social skills and esteem
classes for children 5-15 on the Announcements newsletter. My
housemate Linda Schneider is just amazing with kids. She is a
very talented piano teacher and a trained Montessori teacher.
She puts together groups of 8 kids at a time to meet in her home
in Albany for 4 Saturdays of learning social skills and problem-
solving. The 4 workshops are $120. and the response has been
great from the UC group! Her phone number is 510-527-6202 or you
can email her at LndSchneid AT aol.com.
My very bright, nine year old son, is lagging behind other
children his age in regards to social skills. He is an only child,
extremely verbal and arguementative. He relates to adults well.
However, with kids his own age he tends to start off uneasy and
shy, sometimes swinging to the opposite extreme of being too loud,
and overbearing. He is very competitive, and is very hard on
himself, and sometimes others, when he is not the best at
something, especially sports. (He loves sports, but is an average
player.) He has a very hard time picking up basic social cues as
to what other kids are feeling and thinking. He has very little
awareness on how he comes off to other kids. He has begun having
trouble making and keeping friends. I beleive he feels lonely and
somewhat rejected by other kids. His father and I have had
discussions with him as to how he could be more sensitive to other
kids, and our feeling too, but the concepts don't seem to be
sinking in. Can anyone recommend a couselor, classes or something
to help him develop better social skills?
My son is nine and has some similar issues. Here are some things
that have helped over the years:
1) setting up lots of playdates, preferably with the same kids so
that they learn to negotiate their relationship. We found we had
to do the initiation and hosting, for the most part, since some
monitoring was necessary.
2) joining non-competitive group activities. For us, boy scouts
has been lots of help. Religous Education in a non-stressful
situation has also been good for us. You might try caioperia, or
another sport that isn't competitive.
3) a social skills group. We found the one Jim Beattie ran to be
very helpful, and I know he is planning to do another one in the
fall. see http://www.hahathisaway.com/ under "Coaching".
Jewish Community Services also ran one.
Dear Worried Mom-
A book I found somewhat useful is ''teaching your child the
language of social success,'' by Marshall Duke and others.
There are two groups in the east bay I am aware of:
1. Maria Antoniadis - 649-3399. My son has attended these groups,
and I think they are useful.
2. Toby Hendon - 869-4534. These groups are listed in the
newsletter of the Family Resource Network of Alameda County. I
don't know anything else about them.
Good luck and feel free to contact me off list
It sounds like your son may have a non-verbal learning disorder.
Nonverbal learning disorders (NLD) is a neurological syndrome
consisting of specific assets and deficits. The assets include
early speech and vocabulary development, remarkable rote memory
skills, attention to detail, early reading skills development and
excellent spelling skills, the verbal ability to express
themselves eloquently and strong auditory retention. Major
deficits and dysfunction are: lack of coordination, balance
problems, and difficulties with handwriting, poor
visual-spatial-organization, lack of ability to comprehend
nonverbal communication, difficulties adjusting to transitions
and novel situations, and deficits in social judgment and social
There are several websites where you can get excellent info,
including Nldline.com, ldca.org, and nldontheweb.org
Pre-Teens & Teens
I think my 13 year old daughter exhibits some Aspergers like social/conversational
behaviors. I also believe that it is affecting her ability to fit in socially and
maintain friendships. After reading BPN and doing some research, I contacted
Communication Works but they dont have any openings right now. Can anyone provide
other recommendations for places where she can be assessed and/or perhaps receive some
social skills therapy? Are there other parents of girls who are dealing with this
issue? I'd love to hear a little about how you are handling this with your girls.
worried and concerned mom of a sweet and sensitive girl
I also have a 13 yo (8th grade) daughter with social challenges. She is not ''on the
spectrum'' but has anxiety, slow processing and some other mild neurodevelopmental
differences. Communication Works was very helpful for us, so I suggest you get on a
waiting list there. Maria Antoniadis Ph.d. In Oakland also leads groups for middle
schoolers who struggle socially. Many of these groups set up at the end of the
summer for a fall start, but some may have mid year openings. If you think there is
an anxiety component, I would strongly suggest Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. I also
would like to suggest a good book for middle schoolers: SOCIALLY CURIOUS AND
CURIOUSLY SOCIAL, by Michelle Garcia Winner. Feel free to contact the moderator for
You are not alone!
I would recommend Dr. Maria Antoniadis. When my college-age daughter had problems
navigating middle school, we saw Dr. Antoniadis at her Regent Street office ((510)
336-1120). I believe she has moved, so you will need to google her current contact
info. It was a great help and I recommend her highly. There are three components
1) individual therapy; 2) group therapy; and 3) summer horseback social skills camp.
My daughter participated in the #1 and #2, which provided her with the social
scaffold to navigate high school and now college.
After an unproductive social skills group at Communication Works, we found Susan
Diamond. I can recommend her - highly, emphatically!! My son went from being the
'weird' kid being alone after school and weekends to having friends and invites to
Susan is very practical which worked for our son; giving concrete examples of what
to do in any situation. Plus, she is flexible and deals with situations the kids in
the group bring up, which is exactly what kids need to deal with situations as they
Her website is
Our teen has been diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder. While I don't disagree
with the diagnosis, I am very interested in exploring Alternatives to Medication.
Chinese medicine, somatic therapy, chiropractic come to mind. Has anyone else been
here with their beloved kid? I'm not opposed to Meds, just would like some options
and to hear other stories. Please help!
Many anxiety disorders can be helped with cognitive-behavioral therapy(CBT)(
classes can work, they don't have to be one on one). Any approach that uses
skill's building would be good to help his/her ''tool kit'' and to pre-think
events/situations that might make him/her nervous. Id' try this first. It might
be great and he/she might be fine enough not to need anything else. Keep in mind
that most folks need refresher courses from time to time, so you can't
expect one CBT class to fix it all.
If this doesn't help enough, you can try traditional one on one supportive
Drugs aren't the only answer..infact for many anxiety disroders CBT is just as
good as drugs!
Hi: I would suggest you start with Dr. Stanford Newmark at UCSF Center for
Integrated Medicine. UCSF takes most insurance. His specialty is ADHD and he
is very familiar with anxiety. He can recommend therapy as well as a
non-prescription remedy that will help reduce anxiety w/o the side effects of
meds. This made a huge difference for my anxious teen.
And, continue to support your teen to help him/her overcome the anxiety.
Having a teenager who has overcome his social anxiety disorder I can tell you
that in our experience, alternative therapies didn't help much. Some of them
temporarily calmed the anxiety, but the only thing that changed his behavior and
diminshed the anxiety was behavioral therapy.
I can highly recommend Dr. Joanna Self. Her number is: 847-8139
and her e-mail is email@example.com
Joanna was remarkable and very ingenius and creative with our son. She'll go the
extra mile if she thinks it will help.
Our son did do meds for a short time, rx'd by a Kaiser psychiatrist, w/ no
change. There is no guarantee that meds will help and I'm very anti meds unless
there are no other options.
Something else to consider is changing your teens diet (I know, a big
challenge). Gluten sensitivity is known to be a cause of anxiety, depression,
behavior problems, learning issues (not always but often).
You might consider eliminating gluten for a month and see if there is any
change. When my son went off of gluten (at age 8) for almost a year the change
was remarkable. We also gave him high doses of Omega 3 Fish Oil, recommended by
a psychiatrist, over meds. He took 4 caps per day. They helped lower his
anxietey. Omega 3 is an important nervous system supplement.
Hope this info helps. Good luck. Feel free to contact me if you would like to
There are some simple protocols based on the Masgutova Method that you can do on
your child. Brian Esty in SAn Francisco was very helpful to us. Some protocols
you do before going into a stressful social situation, others have more long
term effects. I wish you the best.
Our son has been diagnosed with social anxiety as well, and we would also like
to avoid meds when a good alternative exists. The recommendation for him was
cognitive behavioral therapy, which has a good history of teaching people the
skills they need to manage their symptoms when they are in a panic-causing
situation. Like any therapy, it can be expensive, but at least it's
action-driven, and intended to produce results [and have an end point!] after a
few months. -jmf
I'm seeking current recommendations for social skills
groups/therapist for preteen girls. My daughter seems to
alienate other kids while making efforts to form friendships
and be accepted. She is slow to read social cues and looks
for friendship in the wrong places.
My daughter attended Kathryn McCarthy's social skills group
when she was 8 and benefitted a great deal from it. I
highly recommend Dr. McCarthy: 2999 Regent St Berkeley, CA
94705-2146 Phone:(510) 649-3399 anon
I have a 17-year-old daughter who is having social anxiety issues. She is somewhat shy and feels she would like to attend a therapy group for teens who are having similar issues. Can anyone recommend a good therapist who runs such groups for teenagers? We live in Contra Costa County but would be willing to travel.
My friend Laura Soble (MFCC) runs teen groups for girls with
different issues. I've seen her in action. She's really fabulous
with kids of all ages. Laura is also school psychologist for The
Raskob Day School.
Her office number is:(510) 215-7300.
Her office is off of Park Blvd in Oakland. Just google Laura Soble
and it'll take you to her website. Good luck.
I recommend contacting Communication Works - www.cwtherapy.com or
call 510-639-2929. They are in Oakland, I don't know if that's
close enough for you, and they have social skills groups.
Have you considered a social skills group?
My teenage daughter had some social issues in misreading others
social cues and found Communication Works in Oakland to be very
helpful. They had a social group consisting of a counselor,
several other teens plus one model teen (without any issues) which
formed a very safe and secure environment for learning and
practicing various social skills. The group leader always made
time at the end of their session to discuss what had gone on in
session with the parents, so that we could better support our kids
during the week. Check them out at www.cwtherapy.com and good
My 13 year old daughter has a dx of very mild PDD.
While she misses social cues, she otherwise seems fairly
normal. Unfortunately, she doesn't have many friends and I
am wondering if there are any support groups for girls with
I have heard about the role-play workshop, and am wondering
if anybody has had any experience with them that they'd be
willing to share.
lastly, I am wondering if there are any support groups for
the parents of aspie teens?
I don't know about Asperger's per se, but my daughter
w/add attended a social skills group with Dr. Kathryn
McCarthy. Many of the girls had NLD, and the social
skills worked on (in a very fun way) were very largely
about turn-taking, checking to see if others were
interested in your conversational topic, etc. I think
these skills might also benefit a child w/Asperger's. Dr.
McCarthy can be reached at: 510-649-3399.
I have to disagree with the person who recommended Kathryn
McCarthy for social skills groups. She's a lovely person,
but we got no feedback about the meetings or what they were
working on. We were much more impressed with the
speech/language therapist we saw at Communication Works. Her
name is Shelley Henderson, and she has started her own
private practice: Thinksocialeastbay.com. She trained with
Michelle Garcia Winner, and met with us parents briefly
every week following our kids' sessions.
Greetings. My 11 1/2 yr old son (with aspergers) has been in a social skills
group for the past two years led by Shelly Hansen. She is smart and fun and
creative and positive and has helped my son (& thus my family) a great deal. We
adore her. Shelly has a Masters Degree in Speech Pathology and a Bachelors
Degree in Child Psychology from UC Berkeley. Her office address is: 3756 Grand
Ave, Suite 401, Oakland (across the street from Safeway). 510-508-9845
Can anyone recommend a a social skills group for a 12 year old
girl who has recently been diagnosed with asperger syndrome?
Kathryn McCarthy, PhD on Regent St. in Berkeley runs Social Skills
Groups that are thoughtful, well planned and very effective. My 6 year
old daughter is in one. She enjoys it and is clearly learning from it.
Kathryn's groups vary in age and from what I can see are not
co-ed--girls groups separate from boys groups.
She is a great resource for our family.
My son is 12 and has mild Aspergers. There are no anger
issues or violence etc. He just does not read body language,
or voice tone very well. He is into video games, reading,
and Role playing games...nothing athletic. He wants to make
a 'best friend'. We are looking to find boys around the
same age and diagnosis to form a support/play group. We live
close to the Claremont Hotel. Please contact me if you have
a child who may have similar needs. Thank you.
I may be able to help you. I run an after school, holiday and summer
camp called The Roleplay Workshop. We've been working with kids since
1989. While our programs are not specifically for students with
Asperger's, we've had a lot of success with Asperger's and other LD
Our program uses a roleplaying game called Abantey as an enrichment
tool. Many youth are very interested in role playing games, as they
provide an artistic outlet as well as giving them opportunities to be
heroes in an imaginary setting. In the game, a group of 4-6 youth
(grouped by age and experience) work together to solve a mystery or
problem using the characters they create. They learn teamwork,
communication and problem solving skills. Since our imaginary world
is reality based, they work within a realistic setting, with real
science and realistic consequences for their choices. While playing
the game, they have fun and learn how to make informed choices, take
action and take responsibility for the outcomes of their actions.
Students in our programs say that they love the sense of community and
the creativity of the stories. Many stay involved throughout high
school, and some have returned as adults to join our adult
programs. Parents appreciate the variety of programs during school
holidays, weekends, after school and summer, and our support of their
student's school work.
We have a web page (www.roleplay-workshop.com) that includes listings
of available spaces for after school, weekend and holiday
programs. There are also reviews of our programs through the Berkeley
Parents web site.
I wish you luck with finding an activity for your son, if our programs
aren't the right fit!
Rebecca Thomas; Director; Roleplay Workshop;
It has been recommended to us to look for a social group
experience for our 6th grade girl going to King. As in
elementary school, she continues to be uncomfortable
approaching her peers both at school and otherwise to chat
or engage. She is quite anxious in social situations with
peers but does well with adults.
We are looking for recommendations for a therapist that
provides a group for middle school girls to address
cliques, peer pressure, popularity, changing bodies and
other new challenges in this phase of life. Thanks.
parent of growing pre-teen
Linda Pazdirek, MFT, facilitates a group for middle school
girls. She is warm and lovely.
My 14 years old son struggles with shyness and lack of social skills. Can any of
you recommend a group that focuses on these issues? Lamorinda would be most
convenient, Walnut Creek and Berkeley are possible. Thanks mother
My daughter is in a social group with Maria Antoniadis PhD,
2999 Regent St, Berkeley, CA 94705 (510) 649-3399. She is very
good. Also I ecently saw an organization, Abilility (?), offer
social groups in Berkeley, and Walnut Creek. I don't know anyone
who has used that organization, but their website looks really good.
I'm a teacher and I've heard great things about Communication Works in Berkeley
and the two speech therapists who run the social skills groups. I like that the
groups are run by speech therapists who give the kids tangible language skills to
use outside of group. From what I've heard they evaluate each child and fit them
into a group just right for their age and particular needs. Check out their
www.cwtherapy.com. Their phone number is 530-3085.
Hope this helps! Good luck in your search
My son went to a great social skills group in Berkeley run by 2
speech therapists. They are called communication works and you
can contact them by phone 510-530-3085 or at this website
www.cwtherapy.com. The group was well structured and fun and the
therapists are wonderful. I'm pretty sure they have groups for
teens. I hope this helps.
It's not in Lamorinda, but there is a group in Berkeley that
teaches social skills for kids with communication and social
delays. They are called Communication Works, and they have a
pretty useful website, www.cwtherapy.com
Good luck! anon.
I am looking for a social skills support group or group therapy for my 12 year old daughter. I mainly am looking for a support group for teen concerns, particularly social ones.
My 12 year old step-son has challenges with social interaction,
and we have used a group therapy conducted by Dr. Kathryn
McCarthy. The sessions take place right near Alta Bates
hospital. It has been very helpful for him to be with other
kids with similar issues in a facilitated environment.
My daughter was somewhat younger, but greatly enjoyed and
benefited from Dr. Kathryn McCarthy's social skills group in
Berkeley. Dr. McCarthy is at 649-3399.
My daughter is currently enrolled in a social skills group
run by Toby Hendon, an insightful, nurturing and very
skilled therapist. The group currently consists of two high
school girls and two middle school girls. For next year,
Toby would like to break this group up into two: one for
middle school girls and one for high school girls. I
recommend both groups highly. Please call Toby at 869-4534 for more information.
Anger Management/Social Skills Group for Middle School Boys now
forming. Group on Wednesdays from 4:15-5:30pm. Jewish Family &
Children's Services, Berkeley. Contact: Kathy Langsam, MFT;
510/704-7475 ext. 229.
My 10-year-old son has been in Maria Antoniadis' group for a year (and if I
recall correctly, we were on the waiting list at least a year before that).
I think she does a great job, and in all the time we were waiting, every
recommendation I received was to wait for her, that she was the best. I
also have a friend who felt her son benefited from Kathryn's group.
Desmid (May 2000)
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