Cool Kids with ASD

The successful Cool Kids Program has been adapted for children who have an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), to better suit the learning and thinking styles common to ASD. A family-based program that provides children and parents with skills and strategies to help them better manage anxiety, either individually or in groups.

The successful Cool Kids Program has been adapted for children who have an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), to better suit the learning and thinking styles common to children with high functioning ASD. It is a family-based 13 week program (not including school holidays) that provides children between the ages of 7 – 12 and their parents with skills and strategies to help them better manage anxiety. The program can be run as a group program or it can sometimes be more appropriate to work with just one family. Grounded in a cognitive behavioural approach, the program includes relaxation training, and skills training in the areas of social skills and assertiveness along with the cognitive restructuring and gradual exposure that make up cognitive behavioural therapy. Each skill is designed to address one of the key factors that research suggests maintain problematic anxiety in children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Topics covered in the program include:

  • Understanding anxiety
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Parenting strategies that encourage brave behaviour
  • Identifying and using helpful realistic thoughts
  • Facing fears, building independence and increasing confidence
  • Social skills

What you can expect

Groups of similarly aged children with an ASD diagnosis and their families attend twelve sessions over a fourteen to sixteen week period. The first ten sessions are conducted on consecutive weeks (usually with a break for any school holidays). There are two or three week gaps between the final two sessions to allow families enough time to practice the new strategies and techniques before the final session. There is also a follow up thirteenth session, 2-3 months after the last session, to keep everyone motivated to continue the program once regular sessions cease. We keep groups small and interactive (usually 4 to 5 families), so that all families are able to get the most out of the program.

Each session runs for around two hours with a short break mid-session for light refreshments. We usually hold our sessions as early as possible after the end of a school day, but if a family is attending from a distance we try to take that into account.

The sessions are facilitated by two group leaders (usually Elaine and another trained pyschologist or educator). Each week, the entire group meets for the session introduction and review of the past week’s challenges and successes. Then the group splits into two: a child group and a parent group, working through parent and child versions of the Cool Kids with ASD workbook. Lastly, the whole group rejoins for a review of the session and a discussion about practice tasks for the week ahead.

Frequently Asked Questions

In the first instance, you could contact Elaine for an individual or family session to assess whether your child has anxiety and qualifies for the program.
It’s not uncommon for children (and parents) to be apprehensive about joining a group and revealing the difficulties they are experiencing with anxiety. However, experience has shown that families gain huge benefits from group sessions that can’t be obtained in one-to-one counselling. It helps children to learn that others are ‘in the same boat’ and it helps parents as they learn from each other’s experiences and share what works well for different families. It can also be a lot of fun!!!
Families come from a range of backgrounds but you will probably find that you have more in common than you thought. Every child who completes the program is there because they have worries and fears that are stopping them from enjoying life to the full. Most people end up thoroughly enjoying the group and the support it provides.
Cool Kids is designed to run over nine weeks with a two-hour group session every week (usually held after school). The last two or three sessions are usually a couple of weeks apart to allow children and their families time to practice the techniques learned in earlier sessions. We generally do not run Cool Kids during the school holidays, so all in all, the program is generally spread over about 3 months. You also need to be prepared to spend at least half an hour every day completing practice tasks. Experience has shown that those families who prioritise the practice tasks are the ones who gain the most benefit from the program.
Yes, a child won’t be accepted unless at least one (but preferably both) parents agree to attend the sessions. One of the reasons this program is so successful is because parents are actively involved – and learn how to become a ‘coach’ for their child.
The cost of the Cool Kids program varies, depending on the number of families participating in each program – the more families, the cheaper it becomes! Individual sessions and assessments are charged on an hourly basis – please ask Elaine for more information.
We’re happy for anyone who feels that Cool Kids could be of assistance to a child or family they know to contact us in the first instance. This may include parents, grandparents or caregivers, medical professionals, schools or kindergartens, or other psychologists or therapists. We can provide information that can be passed on to the family so that they can make an informed choice.
We are confident that there will always be a degree of behaviour change if parents and children attend every session and always do the practice tasks between sessions. The amount of behaviour change will depend on a number of factors including how severe the anxiety is, the motivation of the child and family to change, and the presence of other issues that make change difficult. There is a follow up appointment about 3 months after the final Cool Kids session to monitor progress, and families are always welcome to undertake the program a second time in order to reinforce what has been learned.

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