by Dorothy Puch Lillig
It is an understatement to say that the coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on various aspects of our lives.
For many, COVID-19 has exacerbated anxiety they may have already had, particularly for children and young adults with special needs.
By following social distancing and safety guidelines, the Spring Branch District’s Social Motion Skills, Inc., has been able to go back to providing the interactive social environment their students need.
Celebrating their 10th year in the Spring Branch District, Social Motion’s mission is to inspire and empower those with autism and similar special needs to achieve their full potential.
“We are fulfilling our mission by being the only provider of evidence-based social skills for children of all ages 4 to 54 in the area,” said Executive Director Wendy Dawson.
Social Motion is unique in two main ways, Dawson said.
For one, it is not a school or therapeutic organization, rather an educational resource that supplements and complements schools, therapists, counselors and extracurricular activities.
“We work across school districts and the Houston metroplex to assist students and families to form new friendships and support networks,” Dawson said.
Secondly, Dawson said Social Motion works with families across the lifespan of raising a child with autism and similar special needs from diagnosis, parent training, social skills classes to transition planning, job and life coaching.
“Our social skills classes target the significant deficits in social skills that may result in children with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder being the targets of bullying and social rejection,” Dawson said, adding that Social Motion addresses these issues by providing evidence-based training.
Over the past 10 years, Social Motion has offered weekly in-person, after school social skills classes. In class, Social Motion teachers introduce the skill, give a rationale, model the behavior and provide feedback. Once a month, students participate in community outings to practice their skills in a real-life setting. Prior to COVID-19, Social Motion held 23 social skills classes a week.
“By giving these students the building blocks they need to communicate with and relate to others, Social Motion is helping ensure they are able to have successful relationships with others and obtain and maintain employment where they are earning a living wage,” Dawson said.
How can the Spring Branch District and greater Houston area get involved?
Dawson said that, as many families are navigating job loss while struggling to cover the overwhelming financial responsibility of raising a child with special needs, Social Motion has seen a dramatic increase in requests for tuition assistance.
“Now, more than ever, we want to make sure our students have access to the life-changing programs we offer,” Dawson said.
In addition to straight monetary support, the local community can shop Aspire Accessories, the Social Motion Skills studio, for jewelry and gifts.
Aspire Accessories is a work transition program for adults with autism and similar special needs.
“We provide a solution to what is known as the ‘services cliff’ for this population of individuals once they age out of supported, school-based environments,” Dawson said. “We empower each artisan to take responsibility for their work, realize their potential, and increase their self-awareness and confidence.”
“We would love to have wholesale opportunities with local businesses.” Dawson added.
Curbside pickup and mail delivery are available for Aspire items ordered through https://aspireaccessories.com.
If you are interested in learning more about social skills classes for your child or young adult with special needs, visit www.socialmotionskills.org, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 713.461.7200.
“We work on a sliding scale tuition model and offer scholarships to the extent fundraising allows,” Dawson said.
Need service hours? Local teens can apply to be mentors at Social Motion Skills.
Regardless of how or why you get involved, know that Social Motion Skills has a decade-long history of providing services for local children and young adults. Despite the coronavirus, the organization plans to continue offering these services.
Dawson said: “We are investing in the tools they need for a life full of purpose and meaning.”
Social Motion Skills
10694 Haddington Dr., Suite G
Houston, TX 77043