PEERS training

Social Skills Training Held for Heritage Staff, Gives Students Confidence

Heritage School held a weeklong training in July on the PEERS model of social skills training for many of its staff members.

Ernie Taylor, executive clinical director at Heritage, said the program was developed at UCLA by Elizabeth Laugeson.

“We flew the founder of the PEERS social skills training program, Liz Laugeson, here,” Ernie said. “We had 40-50 therapists, teachers, team leads and program supervisors on PEERS homes involved in the training.”

Ernie explained the basics of the PEERS model that is used in the six PEERS homes at Heritage.

“It’s a special training of social skills for teenagers with developmental and autism spectrum disorders,” he said. “Some examples of social skills they need help with are rumors and gossip, bad reputations, bullying, teasing and embarrassing feedback, dealing with rejection and how to enter and exit conversations.”

In addition, Ernie said staff learned how to teach students how to plan and have social activities, understand appropriate uses of humor, choose appropriate friends and learn good conversation skills.

“There was a lot of role playing,” he said. “The principle would be taught and then we would role play. It was pretty scripted. We went through every skill. The staff was very energized.”

Ernie said now that the program has been officially taught the way it was written, it is proving to be successful.

“I love it,” he said. “It will only get better as teachers train and use it. They will incorporate it into group therapy. Groups will learn a skill and practice it. They’ll do some activities to reinforce. We will rotate through all the skills and then repeat.”

Brenda Johnson, residential director, said it’s made a difference in the kids.

“It gives them confidence,” she said. “Kids don’t easily pick up on things like that. Society isn’t kind to you if you can’t do those things.”

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