If you’re anything like me, you want to know as much about a program as you possibly can before signing your child up. Trust me, I get it. Anytime my children have needed help I did a ton of research before making a decision. That’s why I’d like to tell you the story of how the program first began, how it evolved and our plans for the future.
Before I tell you about the program, let me tell you just a little bit about myself. My name is Isa Marrs and I have been helping children reach their potential for more than twenty years. During that time I have helped children and parents ranging from the impoverished rural areas of New Mexico all the way to the super affluent communities of Westchester County, NY and Greenwich, Connecticut. Some parents drive over an hour, each way, several times a week, to get my help for their children. The “Where I Can Be Me®” program is one of the reasons they come.
Why I Started This Program
When I first started this program back in 2006, I had no idea how important it would become. At the time there we no other programs here in Westchester County that were effectively helping children make friends and maintain relationships. The program began because many of the children I was working with needed help developing these skills, and I could not find anyone who I was comfortable referring them to. So with the help of my husband I set out to create a place where children could come and feel safe learning to develop these important skills.
Having been working with children since I was fifteen and being a board-certified speech language pathologist I knew a lot about what needed to be done. I also knew that the data coming out of the existing social skills programs was not encouraging. We didn’t want that to be the case with our program. That is why we have always devoted so much of our resources to research. It is also why we have always worked so hard to measure success and failure.
Learning From Mistakes
One of the first things we discovered was that putting a bunch of kids together based on age, gender or diagnosis is a really bad idea. This is the structure that most social skills programs use. When parents come to us from other programs they often complain about the group their child was in. Sometimes it was that their child was in a group that was too advanced, but most often they tell us that their child was grouped with peers that were not advanced enough. I understand their frustration. That sort of environment is not conducive to helping kids who struggle socially because they don’t have good peer-models or potential friends.
“Our son loves coming to class each week. He is always excited to see his friends and can’t wait to see what project they are going to do next. The art foundation to the program is a wonderful non-competitive, non-threatening basis for building social skills. He leaves each week with a smile on his face, filled with pride and a sense of accomplishment. I really appreciate the weekly emails summarizing the group and his individual progress and/or challenges.”
Jennifer S. Bedford, NY
That is why it is important to balance the strengths, needs and interests of the children. While age, gender and diagnosis (if any) should play a role in placement, it is more important that your child be with kids who can be good models in some way. It is also important that there be at least one child who could potentially be a good friend. The reason for that is because it’s difficult to learn how to make friends and maintain relationships if you don’t like anyone in the group. That is why I put so much effort into making sure each child is with the right group of peers. I even provide a 5-week guarantee period in case I get it wrong. That makes sure new members do not waste their money when they join the Where I Can Be® program. We were the first program to have the confidence to do this.
Out With The Old. In With The New.
Something else we figured out is that the old model of memorizing “what to do” does not work. Kids find that model boring and they don’t understand how to apply what they learn to their daily lives. In fairness the traditional model exists because children who struggle socially have trouble learning these skills without being directly taught. However, it is a mistake to omit natural social interactions. By blending together direct teaching with real social interactions we are able to facilitate learning experiences that the children can relate to and carry over into their everyday lives. I named this approach Facilitated Peer Modeling. The name describes how we actively facilitate learning through interactions with the other kids in the group.
Making Sure Nobody Is Left In The Dark
We are also pioneering methods for tracking progress. These skills are notoriously difficult to track, which is why most programs don’t try. However, just because something is difficult does not mean it is impossible. Effectively tracking progress is crucial to making breakthroughs. That is why we track the performance of each child and each group in each class. It helps us to see what is working and what is not. It helps us to see when we need to speed things up, slow things down or move to another level. It also makes sure you are never in the dark about how your child is doing because you will get weekly reports and have ongoing opportunities to be involved in the process.
We Offer Specialized Programs With Appropriate Placement for Children Ages 2-17
- Boy groups. Girl groups. Teen groups. Groups based on the children’s needs, interests, age, gender and other important factors.
- Evidence Based Approach. Measurable goals with ongoing improvements!
- Program development for professionals, schools and other entities.
- 5 week money-back guarantee! Try the program without risk or worry!
How To Get More Information
If you’re someone who lives in the New York Tristate area and would like to know more about how the Where I Can Be Me® program can help your child, you should give me a call at 914-488-5282.
If you are a therapist, agency or school that is interested in using our program please call 914-686-0190.
Speak to you soon,