How the Friendly Group Supports Children and
Young People on the Autism Spectrum
By Anita Hughes
Anita M Hughes has been running the Friendly Group with her colleagues for 18 years, supporting more than 200 children and young people in that time. The Friendly Group is a social and therapeutic group for children and young people on the Autism Spectrum who struggle to make relationships and share feelings with others. The author describes the core principles of this extremely successful group and the structure and framework offered. These children appear to cope without real friendships, but often from an increasingly isolated position. Their behaviour is often driven by anxiety, made worse by feeling different. Families experience frustration and uncertainty about how they can help. Through vivid accounts Hughes describes how the group leaders can facilitate children and young people to support each other, and to think and talk about what happens inside and between them in the 'here- and- now'. Professionals working with children and young people and their families in and outside school will find a fantastic range of ideas here on how to work in similar groups, with a sound sense of how to 'contain' children's and young people's anxiety. Parents too, will find inspiration. As Hughes states "when we have faith in the children we live or work with, they will blossom".
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Anita M Hughes BA MEd CPsychol AFBPsS is a teacher and chartered educational psychologist. She worked in social services and education services in South Wales, London and Surrey before setting up in private practice in 1999 in Guildford, Surrey. When Anita worked as a consultant in the council day nurseries of Hammersmith & Fulham in the early 1980s she met and worked with Elinor Goldschmied, collaborating in writing, teaching and film making and developing the ideas of Heuristic Play. Anita has also published three books about play and learning in the Early Years as well as collaborating with Veronica Read in a book for teachers on how to build positive relationships with parents. On moving to Surrey in 1986, Anita began working in local authority mainstream and special schools across the age range. She worked with teachers and parents to assess children's learning, emotional and behavioural difficulties and to support them through classroom advice, running groups and training courses. It was at this time that her interest in autism developed into a passion and she started to run groups for children in schools, together with teaching support staff to run their own groups. Anita set up the Friendly Group in 1999 when she began her own private practice. Her private practice has included IQ assessments, consultation advice, counselling and delivering training workshops. In recent years her focus has been on family and individual counselling. However, her overriding love is her work with ASD children, young people and their parents.
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