Q&A with Helen Whelan from CHILL
What was the motivation for you guys starting CHILL?
ASD is a lifelong journey. Early intervention supports them through the school years, then what? Many young adults find that once the structure and routine of school disappears they stop interacting with the world outside their family home.
Many young adults with ASD don’t have the skills to take control of their new life after school. Many don’t have the communication and organisational skills to continue school friendships or make new friends, yet want to have friends.
There aren’t any services that provide for this important need in Brisbane. So I decided to do some research into social coaching and networking programs worldwide. PEERS is the only evidence –based social coaching program worldwide and comes from the UCLA. We have adapted it to have an Australian voice and to incorporate the use of peer mentors to provide support and social modelling.
I take it CHILL is the program and CHILL OUT is the social network – am I right about that one?
Yes that’s right. CHILL is the social skills coaching program (a series of 10 workshops) and CHILL OUT is the social networking program. Once a participant has completed CHILL they can enroll in CHILL OUT and make their own choices (from a suite of options) around going out.
What sorts of things do you do in the CHILL workshops?
The workshops focus on a range of social skills like the rules of conversations, how to trade information, finding common interests with others, good questions to ask someone, how to listen in a conversation, how to start, join and end a conversation, dating and much more.
The workshops are interactive and use video illustration, peer demonstrations, role-plays, and social situation rehearsals. We use popular mediums of drama, music, film and social media to engage participants.
What do peer mentors do in the CHILL workshops?
The peer mentor participates in the workshops just like the participants. They provide tailored support and encouragement to each participant through social modelling.
How does CHILL OUT work?
Once enrolled, you can select from a wide range of social activities that suit you and what you would like to be doing socially. Every activity provides peer mentor support (one mentor to 3 participants). This means you can go out and do what you want with others who have also chosen the same activity (shared interest) with support of a peer mentor.
What sorts of social activities are on offer in CHILL OUT (CO)?
Anything from CO dinners, CO music concerts, CO theatre shows, CO festivals, CO movies, CO sports events, CO games nights, CO Beach, CO Girls GO Shopping are just some of the options to choose from.
How are the peer mentors involved?
The peer mentors are matched to participants and activities by shared interest also. The peer mentors will provide individualised support with conversations, managing money, catching transport for example.
What are the outcomes you are looking for the in the participants?
Feeling less socially isolated
Improved self confidence
Improved self esteem
New friends (fellow participants and mentors) through shared interests uncovered in the program
from CHILL OUT…
All of the above!
Self directing and accessing social activities of choice
Less reliance on “others” (family) to get out and have fun
Improved social ability crosses into improved outcomes with the ability to work, study, live with others, and be independent socially.
For more information contact Helen at [email protected]