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FOCUS After-School Program

FOCUS Therapy Program Overview

FOCUS (For Our Community Understanding and Success) is an after-school program for school aged children with autism that are looking to strengthen age-appropriate social skills and develop more community awareness. The program is a follow-up to our daytime therapy programs IGNITE and RISE. It is meant to support school-aged children who attend a traditional classroom environment in the day.

FOCUS Schedule

 FOCUS is available year-round as an afterschool program on weeknights in most of our clinics. The session times are:

$

Daily After-School Session: 3:00pm - 7:00pm

5

Note: Each clinic’s FOCUS schedules may vary slightly

If a child receives other therapies after school, the FOCUS therapy program schedule can accommodate those scheduled therapy times. Children will leave FOCUS for the duration of their specific therapy service and then return to the group afterwards.

FOCUS Therapy Program Goals

Strengthen Age-Appropriate Social Skills

A child’s FOCUS therapy program curriculum is centered on structured small group activities. A primary goal of FOCUS is to prepare a child for the social challenges that they face in their current stage in life. As children enter middle childhood or adolescence, their social interactions require more complex skills. Some of these social skills include:

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Learning to cooperate with peers on a common task

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Handling competitiveness and losing

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Developing self-calming strategies when stronger emotions present themselves (e.g. anger)

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Developing tactics to manage and express emotions productively

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Dealing with not getting one’s way when choosing a role, activity, or task

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Communicating with peers in ways that build relationships

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Expressing emotions appropriately

Some of the structured FOCUS activities where these advanced social skills are practiced include:

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Ice breakers

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Scavenger hunts

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Escape rooms

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Competitive games

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Group calming activities

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Emotion sharing activities

While these activities are intended to be fun for the kids they also are structured in a way that challenge children to navigate key social skills and practice specific skills.

Develop Community Awareness

picture of a child with therapists during a FOCUS therapy program at Westside in Illinois

The FOCUS therapy program also emphasizes building community awareness. Participants will practice conversational skills and social exercises in the context of the broader community. For example, the group may be asked to interview a public service professional (e.g. firefighter) or participate in a community project day activity.

picture of children interacting with the therapist during a RISE therapy program session at Westside in Illinois

Between group activities, participants will be taught calming strategies that help them regulate their emotional responses. This helps children return to baseline behavior and stress levels after partaking in a stimulating activity.

How Activities Interact With ABA Therapy

Every participant in the program is 1-on-1 with an ABA therapist. They have their own ABA programming goals that are incorporated into the broader FOCUS therapy program. Every day, progress on these individualized goals is taken to ensure progress is being made on ABA goals.

FOCUS allows therapists to practice each child’s goals in a group setting with similarly aged peers. The group and social activities become a medium through which each child’s individualized programming goals are worked on. For example, communication challenges can be worked on with another peer in a group setting instead of only with the therapist. Every therapist knows their child and what their goals are. Throughout each activity, those goals are included in how the children participates, is directed, and taught. The FOCUS therapy program is really about providing the social backdrop required to really practice age-appropriate, real-life social skills in a safe environment.

How To Get Started

If your child is already a Westside client, you can contact your child’s therapist or the front desk staff in your office. If your child is not a current Westside client, you can contact our Family Support Team at (815) 469-1500 ext 1 or family@westsidect.com. They will assist you in getting started with the FOCUS therapy program.