Teen Club is a socialization training program for teens 13-17 years old with mild to moderate social and communication challenges to help build friendships, self-confidence, and independence in the community. Like all of PCDA’s services, Teen Club is rooted in DIR principles.
Teens Take the Lead
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 small groups 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. Depending on the activity, small groups may join together so all the teens get a chance to work and have fun with each other. 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 decisions together, 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.
Respecting Individual Differences
An important aspect of building group cohesion is making the effort to understand one another and how we perceive the world. We help teens recognize that what is easy for one person may be challenging for another. We encourage the teens to understand each other’s individual differences and to make adjustments, 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.
Developing Relationships and Skills
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. Teen Club staff sets the tone for these spirited interactions.
To be able to participate in group activities, 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.
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.
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 play, 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 own 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, such as understanding other perspectives, considering multiple viewpoints, combining ideas, negotiating, and supporting other’s ideas. In addition, 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. Teen Club helps teens understand that multiple viewpoints and experiences are all around them.
As teens are developing their own values and sense of personal identity, they may wonder: What kind of person am I? What’s truly important to me? How does this influence what I will do with my life? In Teen Club, we explore evolving values and interests and how they can suggest potential vocational or career paths. The teens can then plan pre-vocational activities based on their interests, and have meaningful interactions with each other about the questions they are pondering.
The teens choose and plan their own mix of fun and learning activities, with the facilitation of PCDA staff. Our aim is to support independence and confidence in the community, provide life skills and socialization training, explore pre-vocational interests, and have lots of fun with friends!
-Community Service projects such as cleaning up parks, caring for animals, visiting the elderly and planting gardens or trees.
-Socialization activities such as throwing a party, going out to eat with friends, or having a picnic in the park.
-Vocational activities based on individual interests
such as learning to cook, exploring nature, visiting interactive exhibits, museums, libraries and more!
Teen Buddies is designed for teens with moderate communication and social challenges that are able to function with 1:3 support in small groups and stay together in the community. Should it be determined that your teen requires 1:1 support to participate in the program and remain safe while in the community, Teen Buddies staff will request support from a parent, friend, or volunteer in order to maintain their safety and engagement with peers. Parents provide transportation to all activities.
Teen Club meets twice a week, once on Thursdays from 6:00pm-7:30pm at PCDA, and Saturdays in the community from 10:00am-12:00pm.
Teen Club and Teen Buddies are vendored with Regional Center, Vendor # PD1874, SVC 028
For more information, contact:
Jennifer Avendano: (626) 793-7350 ext. 222
Verliz Geronimo: (626) 793-7350 ext. 262
PCDA uses a multidisciplinary, developmental, family-centered approach in all services. With the exception of peer groups, our services actively involve parents or caregivers in every session.