Social Skills for Kids

Parent Q&A

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  • Making friends at 10

    (4 replies)

    Hello all,

    I have a 10-year-old son just started fifth grade and he’s having a hard time socially. Last year I wrote about him and got some great suggestions. He actually ended up making a friend all on his own but sadly we had to switch schools this year. So back to square one. He may be on the very mild end of the spectrum, or just very socially anxious, but one things for sure:  he doesn’t easily make friends. Most of the time he seems to ignore other kids and they ignore him. He kind of freezes up when people outside his inner circle talk to him. For the first time I recently heard him say “ I don’t wanna be the loneliest kid in school” and “I don’t know how to make friends” . Of course this broke my heart and it showed awareness of the issue. It showed that he actually does care about this, and he wants help. He does not have a formal diagnosis, he is getting psychotherapy for anxiety, including social anxiety. We are in the Northbay. And I am interested in anyone’s experiences with a similar situation, meds or therapy or social skills groups, etc. any suggestions or leads greatly appreciated!

    Our son was similar.  Boy Scouts (now just "Scouts") was very helpful for him.  He was mentored by older boys and gradually made friends on his own. Activity-oriented programs are a good way o meet new people.  And you can keep up the friendship with the boy from the old school.

    Or, my kid as an older teenager, looking back on his childhood, "Why didn't anyone like me?".  He started taking Lexapro, a very small dose, 5 mg, and it helped with the social anxiety.   Also he started therapy, but when he was 15, I wish we had gotten him help earlier (therapy or meds, or anything), so good for you for finding a therapist.  My son has some kind of social deficit, mild, and he has several good friends now.  Best wishes to you and your son.

    I would describe my son similar to how you describe your 10 year old. At some point in early elementary I bought him this book: He is an avid reader and I would catch him reading it at times. The book has helpful social skills advice in a kind of how-to, half-graphic novel, style. There are all of those simple social things (like greeting people) that many people do naturally and many of us need guidance on. The book covers a bunch of elementary friend issues. I recommend it.

    Thanks so much for your replies and suggestions. I already ordered the book on making friends!

  • Social Stories for 3yo on the spectrum?

    (2 replies)

    Hi, my son is a high functioning 3 year old on the autism spectrum (Asperger's). We're looking at ways to improve his social skills -- he often gets too close to other children, or will start talking loudly, and misses cues from other kids who may not want him in their personal space.

    I recently learned about "social stories". Was wondering if anyone here has come across good examples for children with high functioning autism?



    I think Social Stories are used to familiarize a child with a new experience they will encounter. For example, going to the doctor. Here's an example:

    I have 2 daughters with high functioning ASD aka aspergers. Check out the website teacherspayteachers! They have a ton of things for the classroom and a lot of great social stories! I've bought many of the years for different situations! Let me know if you have any other questions. It's a road I am very familiar with. Cheers! 

  • Hello parents,

    My son will be turning 3 in june and I'm looking for social skill groups for this summer. Kindly help/share if any of you have your child enrolled in summer/soclal skills groups and your experience .

    Thank you,


    I am not sure if they do a group but a great place to call and see is Ascend Rehab in Union City, fantastic group of therapists and educators. Best of luck! 

  • I'm looking for a social group for my 9-year old son, ideally in Oakland. He's an only child, LIVES to be around other kids, and has some social skills gaps that make friendships harder for him. The group could be professional (facilitated) or informal (families with similar kids getting together). If you have a referral or would like to chat about getting similar kids together, I'd love to hear from you!

    We haven't checked it out yet, but our child's school recommended to look into Think Social. It's located in Oakland. It's a professional program that offers both one-on-one sessions and facilitated group sessions.

  • My 3.5 year old son has been asked to leave two (very different) preschools due to behavioral challenges (hitting etc.), which crop up almost exclusively in a school-setting or in other groups of more than 2 children. We are now keeping him at home until we can figure out what kind of program would work best for him and what extra therapies/support he may need. He does not seem to be on the spectrum but may have AHDH, anxiety, and/or sensory issues (evaluation in process). Whatever trouble he's having, I believe he could really benefit from regular small doses of social interaction in a very small group setting (<8 kids) guided by a professional. Like a social skills practice group. Does anything like this exist, perhaps something run by an occupational therapist? There were some archived messages about this on BPN but the recommendations seem to be out of date. Ideally looking for something in the El Cerrito/Berkeley area, but would be willing to go further for the right thing. Thanks very much for any advice. Also would welcome meeting up with others in a similar situation for one-on-one playdates. Please feel free to contact me through BPN.  

    Try Family Resource Network on Claremont

    Try the Ann Martin Center off San Pablo at 55th or so, they had a program called The Cornerstone Program that is a therapeutic preschool with a clinician and an educational therapist who help the children through their social and emotional experiences. My son who was later dx'd with asd, adhd and anxiety went there 'til he aged out right before entering kindergarten at 6.

  • Social Skills Group for 5yo Girl?

    (1 reply)

    We have a 5yo with pragmatic language issues and are looking for a social skills group with a Speech and Language therapist. I've seen tons of recommendations for Communication Works in the archives but they have morphed into Seven Bridges with a lot of different therapists and there are no reviews for them. Does anyone have any current experience with Seven Bridges? Or other recommendations? A lot of the ones in the archives no longer seem to be around. Thanks!

    Check with the Ann Martin Center. I know at least in the past they had a group for kids up to 6, they may have or know about more.

  • This may be is a long shot, but we are seeking a social skills group for our fifth grader anywhere in the Bay Area that is more affordable than Communication Works or Think Social East Bay. Both programs are top-notch but outside of our budget. Our kid is not on the spectrum and does not qualify for Regional Center services; however, he would benefit from a group for sure.  The Ann Martin Center accepts Medi-Cal, but their group is for younger children only. Any ideas? 

    We haven't tried it so I can't recommend it, but in the course of my own research on the topic, I saw that Fiddleheads has a sliding scale for their services.

    Access Referrals is the Alameda County database for Medi-Cal providers and services.  A call to them should clarify whether there are any agencies or private practitioners who accept Medi-Cal and who offer the type of service you're looking for.  Alameda County Access Referrals: (800) 491-9099

    I have been looking for the same.  My daughter is older, almost 14.  I found that Kaiser has a social skills group through their child pschiatry dept.  If you are a member, ask them wha they have for kids your child's age.  All the best in your search.  I'm hoping to read more responses to your post that will help me.

  • Social Skills Group for 4th Grader

    (5 replies)

    Looking for a new round of recommendations for social skills groups for elementary-age kids, in the 7-10 range, or any endorsements of some currently meeting (some providers who appear in the archives aren't doing them any more). At this point, I will consider anywhere in the East Bay. It is heartbreaking to watch my child visibly feeling awkward. Thank you!

    -Desperately Seeking Social Skills

    In my opinion, one of the best speech and language pathologist in the East Bay. Our son participated in a social skills group with Lisa and she was tremendously helpful.

    My 10 year old suffers with what is called Reactive Attachment Disorder. Her mother abandoned her and her father is not the greatest. We have had custody of them since she was 2. She has a REALLY hard time getting to know people and being friendly. Once she thinks that she has a friend she "tests" them to make sure they won't leave her. When she feels safe that they won't she relaxes and all is good. 

    One thing we did that was really great was join Girl Scouts--until the leader became obnoxious. Now we have her in counseling and it is helping, art helps her too. We also bought an "American Girl" book about how to make friends. That was a big help. 

    We are in Brentwood but if ever you would like to have a playdate midway somewhere I would love to do that. 

    I'm not familiar with any social skills group in the East Bay, but my son went to Social Learning Works in Marin (Corte Madera) from 3rd to 6th grade with great success. If you don't want to travel that far, you may want to give them a call and see if they have any recommendations.  The staff is very experienced and I'm sure they have great connections throughout the Bay Area.  Their web site is Good luck!

    Our daughter just did a session at Think Social East Bay with Shelly and really loved it. She's on grand just north of lake Merritt. I highly recommend. 

    Contact Shelly Hansen from Think Social East Bay- she runs after school groups in Oakland and will only assign a group if its a good fit.  My daughter took her for the first time this summer and it was great!

  • My 8 year old has some learning disabilities and is pretty clueless socially, to the extent that her friends have aged out of their friendships with her and she seems unable to make or keep new ones.  She is not on the spectrum, just not processing social information in a successful way, combined with extreme sensitivity.  I know there are highly recommended agencies/clinicians in Oakland running groups but we can't realistically get there.  Any leads or recent experience in a closer radius around Albany would be so very appreciated.  

    I also have an 8 year old who is way clueless socially compared to his peers, also not on the spectrum. (I recently posted a question asking for recent reviews of social skills camps, did not get any specific replies reviewing them.) It's tough. I would also love it if a local therapist was interested in starting a group in the North Berkeley-to-Richmond area. Hint, hint! Meanwhile, we are about to order him one of the social skills workbooks on Amazon. I try to speak with him in an age-appropriate way about observing kids in class and focusing on one or two who seem most similar to him and receptive to friendship. I know that immaturity is part of the issue (and part is his personality) so I try to be patient and celebrate the few occasions where I do see him interacting with peers appropriately. In class is actually his best arena; maybe you and your daughter can brainstorm together places where she feels most comfortable, and talk about making friends in that setting to start with. Sports have proven to not be a good option for my son (his immaturity extends to physicality as well) but maybe a possibility for you.

Parent Reviews

I believe Kaiser runs a variety of kids group therapy on social skills.  To me this is something best worked on in real time with a professional guiding the peer interactions.  good luck to your son.

We are very happy with Think Social in Oakland!  Shelly Hansen is a wonderful speech therapist who runs small social skills groups for same-aged children, teens and adults, and my son with Asperger is benefiting greatly after only a few weekly sessions.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

3-5 year olds   Elementary School Aged Kids

3-5 year olds

Help with social skills in almost 5 year old

March 2011

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! Jamie

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 that. JM

You may want to look into social skills groups from Communication Works in Oakland:

Hi 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 - phone - 510-639-2929. Good Luck, Sindy

Almost 5-yr-old son lack of social skills

Jan 2011

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 helpful. 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. Wendy

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 can really strengthen relationships inside school. He can then practice keeping up continuity when stresses occur. Good luck! anon

Check with the Epworth Church in Berkeley. I believe they have a very affordable parent run playgroup for children that need more support with social/school schools. Mom

Hi there, 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. Anon

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 something wrong. anonmom

A social skills therapy playgroup might really help your son. We had a wonderful experience at Communication Works in Oakland ( 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. Good luck! 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. anon

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 ( 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. anon

Communications Works for 3-year-old?

April 2009

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. anon

Dear Parent, 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 is excelent).

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. Good luck!

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. laura

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! Liz

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 skills.

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 services continue.

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. mjc

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'' naturally.

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 ADHD.

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 challenges.

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 complicated). Stephanie

Hi 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! Mary

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 which is Michelle Garcia Winner's website. All of the therapists at Communication Works have been trained by her and use her methods. Jen

Social skills coach/therapist for 5 year old

March 2008

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? mom

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: Anon.

Social Skills Group/Class for 4-Year Old

Oct 2007

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? Non-aggressive Mom

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. anon

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 anon

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 best wishes, Laura

Socially clueless 5-year-old

March 2006

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 rejection.

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 mechanisms.

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:// Good luck. TA

Sautter and Kissack Social Skills Groups

March 2005

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. karyn

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 peer relations. Anon

Elementary School

Support groups for 8yo with Asperger's and ADHD

Sept 2011

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! worried mom

Hi , first I would suggest looking at Michelle Winner's website 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

Social skills group for 8-year-old boy

July 2011

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. Thank you. kc

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 or you can call 639-2929. I think you will find the therapists and staff very helpful. laura

Seeking Therapeutic Social Skills Group for 9-y-o boy

Nov 2010

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: Anonymous

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: anon

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. Anonymous

Social Skills groups for Asperger's child

Aug 2010

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 They are one of the few places that offer 'social thinking' instruction in their social skills groups (see a description at 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 Psychologist anon

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

Good social skills group for 9-y-o boy

May 2009

Hi, 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? Thanks much! 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. *anon*

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 sessions. berkeley parent

We were really happy with Shelley Hanson 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. anon mom

Social skills group for 10-year-old daughter

Sept 2008

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? RR

I can highly recommend Maria Antoniades' group. Her number is (510) 649-3399 and her office is on Regent Street, near Alta Bates. Ann

I recommend Communication works in Oakland for social skills groups - my son has attended and they were very good. They have a website or call 639-2929. Laura

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: 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. Laura

Hello, 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 changes. 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! 510.639.2929

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 Anyway, she referred me to Shelly Hansen at Think Social Eastbay ( 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. Janet

Looking for a social skills class for Asperger's and ADHD

Feb 2007

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? Claire

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 approach that I think will work well with my child. Signed, happily hopeful.

Summer social skills group for 7-yo

May 2006

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! anon

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 understand it.

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 group anon

7-year-old needs help with group interactions

Oct 2005

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. Concerned Mom

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. anonymous

Kids group for social development

December 2002

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- Brenner

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. Andrea

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 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. A mom

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 Kathryn

Building Social Skills for 9-year-old

Aug 2002

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? worried mom

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 under Coaching. Jewish Community Services also ran one. Good Luck. anonymous

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 -Zach

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 interactions. There are several websites where you can get excellent info, including,, and Brad