Worcester Youth Plans Larger Social Help Program

BERLIN — In time for national Adult Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) awareness month, Worcester Youth and Family Counseling Services (WYFCS) is looks to premiere an expanded version of a program they launched over the summer.
Called Social Help in a Nurturing Environment, or SHINE, the program seeks to teach often overlooked basic peer interaction skills to children with social difficulties.
The original SHINE debuted over the summer and met with great success, according to Dr. Jennifer Leggour, clinical director at WYFCS. Riding that momentum, the new version of SHINE will run for two additional weeks, eight instead of six, will add another age group and a simultaneous parents’ program.
“What we had noticed here was that a lot of kids were struggling socially and in individual therapy or family therapy it’s very hard to do skills training and to work with kids one-on-one,” said Leggour. “So getting them into a group really helped because socially is where they struggle anyway.”
The new SHINE will be for children in the 5- to 8-year-old age range as well as 9- to 12-year-olds. Participants tend to have one of several behavior-affecting mental diagnoses, such as ADHD or falling somewhere on the autism spectrum. If the program has enough interest, it will launch in October, said Leggour, which is fitting since that is national ADHD awareness month.
ADHD is a common issue and one that is in need of widespread understanding, asserted Leggour.
“It’s diagnosed much more today than it was even 10 years ago, for a number of reasons. But raising awareness is something that has come up over the last couple of years because it’s such an internal struggle for people,” she said. “Any time you have a mental health disability that you can’t see it’s helpful to raise awareness so that people are sensitive and don’t mislabel that person.”
Though more attention is being given to ADHD than in years past, Leggour said that it is still common for people to just chalk up the signs to bad behavior when it is not the child’s fault.
“It’s not an intentional thing that these kids are doing. It’s very brain-based, very chemical,” she said.
There are three archetypes of ADHD: the first is pronounced hyperactivity, the second is a struggle to focus and remain attentive and a third type is a combination of the hyperactivity and inattentiveness.
Many adults struggle with it for their entire lives and go undiagnosed. They’re able to get by, Leggour acknowledged, but without medication and therapy have a much more difficult time performing even simple tasks.
A typical treatment for ADHD involves combined therapy, where both medication and counseling is used. Because ADHD can cause social difficulties, Leggour said that SHINE would be a useful tool for any parent looking to help their child hone their social interaction skills.
With the parents, Leggour added that this autumn’s SHINE would like to include a concurrent program for adults.
“Parents drop their kids off for group and they’re sitting in the waiting room. Many of them are stressed and our trying to help their kids anyway, so we would like to offer that time for them to sit in a group together and learn about what their kids are learning about. But then also be able to express some of their frustrations and their thoughts and feelings about what is happening,” Leggour said.
Leggour is looking for about 10 participants for each group — both age brackets and the parents’ program. If the interest is there, which she finds likely given the popularity of the first SHINE, then this new project will launch in the next 30 days and meet once a week in the evenings.
For more information contact Leggour at 410-641-4598.