HACKENSACK — If children in your household exhibit the common signs of social vulnerability—being ignored, excluded or rejected by peers—or you’re aware of a child who is experiencing this problem, free group sessions at Fairleigh Dickinson University can help.
The “socially vulnerable” groups, which are part of a research program, consist of either 10 weekly group sessions emphasizing anxiety reduction and changing misperceptions or 10 weekly group sessions emphasizing the application of broad-based social skills. Group assignments will be determined randomly. Both groups emphasize specific coping skills to help improve a child’s peer relationships. To qualify, children must be 8 to 12 years old.
Andrew R. Eisen, Ph.D., associate professor and the director of FDU’s Child Anxiety Disorders Clinic, will supervise the groups, led by advanced doctoral students in FDU’s clinical psychology program. At the conclusion of the program, parents will receive a complimentary copy of his book, “Helping Your Socially Vulnerable Child: What To Do When Your Child Is Shy, Socially Anxious, Withdrawn, or Bullied.”
Although the group meetings are free, a low-cost intake ($30) and social skills screening ($20) are required to ensure that participants meet criteria. Following the intake and screening, parents pay a refundable $50 deposit to reserve a slot; the deposit is returned when the group starts.
Slots are limited, so interested parents are encouraged to call groups coordinator Karen Zwillenberg at 1-201-692-2645 for an initial screening, information and specific requirements. Be sure to mention interest in the “socially vulnerable” groups.
Ideal participants are children who struggle with anxiety and peer-related issues, and have some form of documented (or suspected) neurological conditions such as ADHD-inattentive type, learning disabilities or weaknesses, processing or memory issues, Eisen said.
“Children may not be socially savvy, may be easily distracted, or may struggle with learning issues,” he said. “Ultimately, these children may become socially vulnerable— not only unaware of how their behavior alienates their peers but also having great difficulty understanding why they are not accepted.”
Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Child Anxiety Disorders Clinic, in the Center for Psychological Services, is located at 131 Temple Ave., Hackensack. Low-cost individual and group programs are also available at the Center for participants who experience a variety of problems but do not meet criteria for the socially vulnerable groups.
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