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Friendship and Self-Expression Grow During Weekly Social Groups

Friendship and Self-Expression Grow During Weekly Social Groups

Categories: Blog, Featured News

Socialization and Sexuality Specialist Pamela “Pam” Boyle and Behavior Intervention Specialist (BIS) Stephanie DellaCroce started a social group at the Wheatley Farms Program Without Walls (PWW), this winter. The social group was launched from the success of a larger open discussion group at the Massapequa-Clocks Blvd. Day-Habilitation Site.

These discussions were created to support people to socialize more, develop friendships and talk about issues that are not typically addressed like bullying, boundaries, managing emotions, and friendship.

The camaraderie that’s developed because of these meetings is palpable. People feel comfortable. There’s a little joking and always lots of laughter.

Alex Wiegmann, who is part of the Wheatley Farms program was very vocal about what he’s learned and how much this program meant to him.

“I enjoy socializing and sharing how I feel with people in the group and know that other people in the group share the same feelings I do and that I’m not alone.”

“As a BIS, we do meet individually with people, but I want to do more meetings with the same group of people and not the typical BIS stuff,” said Stephanie. “We discuss topics that they can not only discuss at day program but can also at home.”

Behavior specialists primarily work with program staff. They have regular meetings to analyze and assess the individual behavioral goals of people supported through behavior plans. This can mean identifying triggers to behavioral reactions, evaluating the environment a person is in and providing ongoing support through regular assessments and trainings.

The social groups give Stephanie the opportunity to connect with group members on a deeper level through casual interactions that encourage feedback.
Social isolation and loneliness are prevalent among people with disabilities, especially after reaching adulthood when they don’t have the same interactions they used to have in school. After graduating, a typical person may attend college or join the workforce, but people with disabilities tend to have fewer options and often spend a lot of time at home.

People who participate in day services are exposed to more people and have more frequent interactions with peers and members of the community. The social groups offer a deeper level of social support. With her decades of experience, Pam is especially adept at getting group members to share their personal experiences and doesn’t shy away from sensitive subjects like sadness and anger.

“Bullying, boundaries, making sure that people don’t invade our space and that we don’t invade theirs are opportunities to learn and grow,” Pam said to the group.

The discussion group at Wheately Farms was structured differently than the Clocks-Blvd. group. The discussion topics were introduced as lessons with one week introducing a topic and the following week being a discussion. This way, they could go through two topics a month, giving them ample time to reflect on and implement the lessons they were taught.

During the week of May 27, both groups were honored with certificates of completion for their participation. The atmosphere of these ceremonies/gathering were very different from day one with members eagerly rolling in the farms’ clubhouse or grabbing seats next to friends.

Before handing out certificates, Pam asked everyone to reflect and share a bit about their experience from the past few weeks. Samantha Reuben, who usually smiles a lot but shares little, added, “My favorite part is when we talk about friendships.”

Everyone has an opportunity to contribute to the group. Before grabbing his chair, James Clarke went over to Pam and helped her pass out everyone’s binder. When he’s passing out the binders, he not only recognizes the names but also the distinct cover designs they created on week one that display everyone’s unique personalities and interests.

Moving forward, Pam and Stephanie plan to continue social group meetings with both programs and expand them to others who are interested in participating.