Social Skills Groups & Therapists

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3-5 year olds Elementary School Aged Kids Pre-Teens & Teens

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

Pre-Teens & Teens

13yo needs some social skills training/therapy

Nov 2013

I think my 13 year old daughter exhibits some Aspergers like social/conversational behaviors. I also believe that it is affecting her ability to fit in socially and maintain friendships. After reading BPN and doing some research, I contacted Communication Works but they dont have any openings right now. Can anyone provide other recommendations for places where she can be assessed and/or perhaps receive some social skills therapy? Are there other parents of girls who are dealing with this issue? I'd love to hear a little about how you are handling this with your girls. worried and concerned mom of a sweet and sensitive girl

I also have a 13 yo (8th grade) daughter with social challenges. She is not ''on the spectrum'' but has anxiety, slow processing and some other mild neurodevelopmental differences. Communication Works was very helpful for us, so I suggest you get on a waiting list there. Maria Antoniadis Ph.d. In Oakland also leads groups for middle schoolers who struggle socially. Many of these groups set up at the end of the summer for a fall start, but some may have mid year openings. If you think there is an anxiety component, I would strongly suggest Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. I also would like to suggest a good book for middle schoolers: SOCIALLY CURIOUS AND CURIOUSLY SOCIAL, by Michelle Garcia Winner. Feel free to contact the moderator for my email. You are not alone!

I would recommend Dr. Maria Antoniadis. When my college-age daughter had problems navigating middle school, we saw Dr. Antoniadis at her Regent Street office ((510) 336-1120). I believe she has moved, so you will need to google her current contact info. It was a great help and I recommend her highly. There are three components offered: 1) individual therapy; 2) group therapy; and 3) summer horseback social skills camp. My daughter participated in the #1 and #2, which provided her with the social scaffold to navigate high school and now college. pmog

After an unproductive social skills group at Communication Works, we found Susan Diamond. I can recommend her - highly, emphatically!! My son went from being the 'weird' kid being alone after school and weekends to having friends and invites to hang out. Susan is very practical which worked for our son; giving concrete examples of what to do in any situation. Plus, she is flexible and deals with situations the kids in the group bring up, which is exactly what kids need to deal with situations as they happen. Her website is Grateful Mom

Teen diagnosed with Social Anxiety - what now?

May 2012

Our teen has been diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder. While I don't disagree with the diagnosis, I am very interested in exploring Alternatives to Medication. Chinese medicine, somatic therapy, chiropractic come to mind. Has anyone else been here with their beloved kid? I'm not opposed to Meds, just would like some options and to hear other stories. Please help! A Mom

Many anxiety disorders can be helped with cognitive-behavioral therapy(CBT)( classes can work, they don't have to be one on one). Any approach that uses skill's building would be good to help his/her ''tool kit'' and to pre-think events/situations that might make him/her nervous. Id' try this first. It might be great and he/she might be fine enough not to need anything else. Keep in mind that most folks need refresher courses from time to time, so you can't expect one CBT class to fix it all. If this doesn't help enough, you can try traditional one on one supportive therapy. Drugs aren't the only answer..infact for many anxiety disroders CBT is just as good as drugs! JM

Hi: I would suggest you start with Dr. Stanford Newmark at UCSF Center for Integrated Medicine. UCSF takes most insurance. His specialty is ADHD and he is very familiar with anxiety. He can recommend therapy as well as a non-prescription remedy that will help reduce anxiety w/o the side effects of meds. This made a huge difference for my anxious teen. And, continue to support your teen to help him/her overcome the anxiety. -Anonymous

Having a teenager who has overcome his social anxiety disorder I can tell you that in our experience, alternative therapies didn't help much. Some of them temporarily calmed the anxiety, but the only thing that changed his behavior and diminshed the anxiety was behavioral therapy. I can highly recommend Dr. Joanna Self. Her number is: 847-8139 and her e-mail is joannaself [at] Joanna was remarkable and very ingenius and creative with our son. She'll go the extra mile if she thinks it will help.

Our son did do meds for a short time, rx'd by a Kaiser psychiatrist, w/ no change. There is no guarantee that meds will help and I'm very anti meds unless there are no other options. Something else to consider is changing your teens diet (I know, a big challenge). Gluten sensitivity is known to be a cause of anxiety, depression, behavior problems, learning issues (not always but often). You might consider eliminating gluten for a month and see if there is any change. When my son went off of gluten (at age 8) for almost a year the change was remarkable. We also gave him high doses of Omega 3 Fish Oil, recommended by a psychiatrist, over meds. He took 4 caps per day. They helped lower his anxietey. Omega 3 is an important nervous system supplement. Hope this info helps. Good luck. Feel free to contact me if you would like to talk further. June

There are some simple protocols based on the Masgutova Method that you can do on your child. Brian Esty in SAn Francisco was very helpful to us. Some protocols you do before going into a stressful social situation, others have more long term effects. I wish you the best. Ann

Our son has been diagnosed with social anxiety as well, and we would also like to avoid meds when a good alternative exists. The recommendation for him was cognitive behavioral therapy, which has a good history of teaching people the skills they need to manage their symptoms when they are in a panic-causing situation. Like any therapy, it can be expensive, but at least it's action-driven, and intended to produce results [and have an end point!] after a few months. -jmf

Social Skills Group for pre-teen girl

Oct 2010

I'm seeking current recommendations for social skills groups/therapist for preteen girls. My daughter seems to alienate other kids while making efforts to form friendships and be accepted. She is slow to read social cues and looks for friendship in the wrong places.

My daughter attended Kathryn McCarthy's social skills group when she was 8 and benefitted a great deal from it. I highly recommend Dr. McCarthy: 2999 Regent St Berkeley, CA 94705-2146 Phone:(510) 649-3399 anon

Teenager with social anxiety

Feb 2009

I have a 17-year-old daughter who is having social anxiety issues. She is somewhat shy and feels she would like to attend a therapy group for teens who are having similar issues. Can anyone recommend a good therapist who runs such groups for teenagers? We live in Contra Costa County but would be willing to travel. anon

My friend Laura Soble (MFCC) runs teen groups for girls with different issues. I've seen her in action. She's really fabulous with kids of all ages. Laura is also school psychologist for The Raskob Day School. Her office number is:(510) 215-7300. Her office is off of Park Blvd in Oakland. Just google Laura Soble and it'll take you to her website. Good luck. June

I recommend contacting Communication Works - or call 510-639-2929. They are in Oakland, I don't know if that's close enough for you, and they have social skills groups. best wishes, laura

Have you considered a social skills group? My teenage daughter had some social issues in misreading others social cues and found Communication Works in Oakland to be very helpful. They had a social group consisting of a counselor, several other teens plus one model teen (without any issues) which formed a very safe and secure environment for learning and practicing various social skills. The group leader always made time at the end of their session to discuss what had gone on in session with the parents, so that we could better support our kids during the week. Check them out at and good luck!! Been There

Support Group for 13 year old aspie girl

Jan 2009

My 13 year old daughter has a dx of very mild PDD. While she misses social cues, she otherwise seems fairly normal. Unfortunately, she doesn't have many friends and I am wondering if there are any support groups for girls with this issue? I have heard about the role-play workshop, and am wondering if anybody has had any experience with them that they'd be willing to share. lastly, I am wondering if there are any support groups for the parents of aspie teens? thanks!!

I don't know about Asperger's per se, but my daughter w/add attended a social skills group with Dr. Kathryn McCarthy. Many of the girls had NLD, and the social skills worked on (in a very fun way) were very largely about turn-taking, checking to see if others were interested in your conversational topic, etc. I think these skills might also benefit a child w/Asperger's. Dr. McCarthy can be reached at: 510-649-3399. anon

I have to disagree with the person who recommended Kathryn McCarthy for social skills groups. She's a lovely person, but we got no feedback about the meetings or what they were working on. We were much more impressed with the speech/language therapist we saw at Communication Works. Her name is Shelley Henderson, and she has started her own private practice: She trained with Michelle Garcia Winner, and met with us parents briefly every week following our kids' sessions. anon

Greetings. My 11 1/2 yr old son (with aspergers) has been in a social skills group for the past two years led by Shelly Hansen. She is smart and fun and creative and positive and has helped my son (& thus my family) a great deal. We adore her. Shelly has a Masters Degree in Speech Pathology and a Bachelors Degree in Child Psychology from UC Berkeley. Her office address is: 3756 Grand Ave, Suite 401, Oakland (across the street from Safeway). 510-508-9845 - Ruth

Social skills group for 12-y-o with Asperger's

Oct 2008

Can anyone recommend a a social skills group for a 12 year old girl who has recently been diagnosed with asperger syndrome? mel

Kathryn McCarthy, PhD on Regent St. in Berkeley runs Social Skills Groups that are thoughtful, well planned and very effective. My 6 year old daughter is in one. She enjoys it and is clearly learning from it. Kathryn's groups vary in age and from what I can see are not co-ed--girls groups separate from boys groups. She is a great resource for our family.

Social group for 12-year-old with mild Aspergers

Nov 2007

Hello, My son is 12 and has mild Aspergers. There are no anger issues or violence etc. He just does not read body language, or voice tone very well. He is into video games, reading, and Role playing games...nothing athletic. He wants to make a 'best friend'. We are looking to find boys around the same age and diagnosis to form a support/play group. We live close to the Claremont Hotel. Please contact me if you have a child who may have similar needs. Thank you. P.K.

Hello, I may be able to help you. I run an after school, holiday and summer camp called The Roleplay Workshop. We've been working with kids since 1989. While our programs are not specifically for students with Asperger's, we've had a lot of success with Asperger's and other LD students.

Our program uses a roleplaying game called Abantey as an enrichment tool. Many youth are very interested in role playing games, as they provide an artistic outlet as well as giving them opportunities to be heroes in an imaginary setting. In the game, a group of 4-6 youth (grouped by age and experience) work together to solve a mystery or problem using the characters they create. They learn teamwork, communication and problem solving skills. Since our imaginary world is reality based, they work within a realistic setting, with real science and realistic consequences for their choices. While playing the game, they have fun and learn how to make informed choices, take action and take responsibility for the outcomes of their actions.

Students in our programs say that they love the sense of community and the creativity of the stories. Many stay involved throughout high school, and some have returned as adults to join our adult programs. Parents appreciate the variety of programs during school holidays, weekends, after school and summer, and our support of their student's school work.

We have a web page ( that includes listings of available spaces for after school, weekend and holiday programs. There are also reviews of our programs through the Berkeley Parents web site.

I wish you luck with finding an activity for your son, if our programs aren't the right fit! Rebecca Thomas; Director; Roleplay Workshop;

Social group experience for middle school girls

Nov 2007

It has been recommended to us to look for a social group experience for our 6th grade girl going to King. As in elementary school, she continues to be uncomfortable approaching her peers both at school and otherwise to chat or engage. She is quite anxious in social situations with peers but does well with adults. We are looking for recommendations for a therapist that provides a group for middle school girls to address cliques, peer pressure, popularity, changing bodies and other new challenges in this phase of life. Thanks. parent of growing pre-teen

Linda Pazdirek, MFT, facilitates a group for middle school girls. She is warm and lovely.

Social skills group for 14 years old boy

Sept 2006

Hello: My 14 years old son struggles with shyness and lack of social skills. Can any of you recommend a group that focuses on these issues? Lamorinda would be most convenient, Walnut Creek and Berkeley are possible. Thanks mother

My daughter is in a social group with Maria Antoniadis PhD, 2999 Regent St, Berkeley, CA 94705 (510) 649-3399. She is very good. Also I ecently saw an organization, Abilility (?), offer social groups in Berkeley, and Walnut Creek. I don't know anyone who has used that organization, but their website looks really good. annon

I'm a teacher and I've heard great things about Communication Works in Berkeley and the two speech therapists who run the social skills groups. I like that the groups are run by speech therapists who give the kids tangible language skills to use outside of group. From what I've heard they evaluate each child and fit them into a group just right for their age and particular needs. Check out their website: Their phone number is 530-3085. Hope this helps! Good luck in your search

My son went to a great social skills group in Berkeley run by 2 speech therapists. They are called communication works and you can contact them by phone 510-530-3085 or at this website The group was well structured and fun and the therapists are wonderful. I'm pretty sure they have groups for teens. I hope this helps. Laura

It's not in Lamorinda, but there is a group in Berkeley that teaches social skills for kids with communication and social delays. They are called Communication Works, and they have a pretty useful website, Good luck! anon.

Support/therapy group for 12 year old girl

Jan 2005

I am looking for a social skills support group or group therapy for my 12 year old daughter. I mainly am looking for a support group for teen concerns, particularly social ones. Anon

My 12 year old step-son has challenges with social interaction, and we have used a group therapy conducted by Dr. Kathryn McCarthy. The sessions take place right near Alta Bates hospital. It has been very helpful for him to be with other kids with similar issues in a facilitated environment. Good luck

My daughter was somewhat younger, but greatly enjoyed and benefited from Dr. Kathryn McCarthy's social skills group in Berkeley. Dr. McCarthy is at 649-3399. as

Social Skills Group for Teens

May 2004

My daughter is currently enrolled in a social skills group run by Toby Hendon, an insightful, nurturing and very skilled therapist. The group currently consists of two high school girls and two middle school girls. For next year, Toby would like to break this group up into two: one for middle school girls and one for high school girls. I recommend both groups highly. Please call Toby at 869-4534 for more information.

Anger Management Class for Middle School Boys

April 2001

Anger Management/Social Skills Group for Middle School Boys now forming. Group on Wednesdays from 4:15-5:30pm. Jewish Family & Children's Services, Berkeley. Contact: Kathy Langsam, MFT; 510/704-7475 ext. 229.

My 10-year-old son has been in Maria Antoniadis' group for a year (and if I recall correctly, we were on the waiting list at least a year before that). I think she does a great job, and in all the time we were waiting, every recommendation I received was to wait for her, that she was the best. I also have a friend who felt her son benefited from Kathryn's group.
Desmid (May 2000)