Teens Connect; A Social Development Program for Teenagers

 An interview with Rebecca Reinking about creating and running Early Start Speech Pathology’s Teen Connect Program

 Rebecca Reinking

Firstly, can you tell us about Teens Connect?

Teens Connect is a group for teenagers who are having difficulties socially. Some of my teens might have diagnoses, others might be shy, have low confidence or difficulties connecting with their peers. There are no set activities, but the dynamic and special interests of the group shape what we do. Throughout the weeks, we have underlying goals; to engage in meaningful conversation, understand different perspectives, think about what other people might be thinking about us and how we can make the peers who we connect with have good thoughts about us. We look at a lot of ‘hidden’ social rules that some teenagers can miss. Whether we achieve this through creating anime characters, doing the drink bottle flip challenge or using the latest app, I love the laughter that comes from the teens connecting with each other.

 What motivated you to create the Teens Connect program?

 I have worked in a high school before and seen first-hand the shift and social complexities that is being a teenager and teenagers with social or language challenges can find this particularly difficult. I don’t want my teens to be bullied or misunderstood because they are not confident or are missing key social cues. Teen Connect is a place for teens to start to develop friendships and social skills in a small, but supported environment with kids who are not different, but the same as them.

 What do you love about working with teenagers?

Teenagers can sometimes “lock themselves away” as they are trying to figure out their own identity. I love unlocking their curious and quirky side through interests that they have and really getting to know their personality. Through the occasional sarcasm and one word answers, teenagers are really funny and I love encouraging them to accept and be themselves socially.

 Do you have any suggestions for parents that may have children that are struggling socially?

 I always treat my teenagers like ‘adults’ and be really open and honest. I like to give teenagers I work with some choices and let their feelings and thoughts be heard. If you are considering a social group, my number tip is to have that open conversation. Address your concerns, say that you’ve found group and talk about what aspects it can help. I like to bring up “I don’t want to make you do something… but let’s give it a try” and do some negotiation so that both teens and parents feel that they are being heard and making choices.

Teens Connect will be running again in Term 2. If you would like to enrol your child or find out more, don’t hesitate to contact us on 49555415 or reception@earlystart.com.au