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Social skills programs are ever growing in their popularity, for people of all ages - offering opportunities for people to learn about themselves, social situations and being around other people.

When faced with the choice of many different social skills programs it can be hard to work out which one is right for you, your child, or the person you support. So this is where we suggest looking at the underlying values of a program and on basis of which the programs are delivered.

There are usually very common themes within social skills programs. Some of the more popular social skills topics focus on things such as 'friendship' or 'getting along with others', and others also offer topics such as 'learning skills for self-regulation' or 'navigating peer pressure'. Another common element to social skills programs is that the materials often present participants with ideas as to how a person will engage and interact with others.

So, how do you differentiate, and how do you evaluate the underlying values of a program, you ask?

Social choice is about a person deciding if, when, how and where they want to interact with others. It involves a person making a decision about the types of interactions that they feel comfortable with and the types of interactions that feel right for them. Social choice is about recognising that we don't all socialise in the same way, or have the same social needs or wants.

When we offer social choice, we demonstrate that we value a person's own experience of the world, and we ensure that a person is learning to their agenda, not ours.

When we have choice, we feel empowered in deciding our own path, and this then helps to build a sense of self-worth.

So when you're looking for a social skills program, or looking for a social skills mentor, make sure that you ask about how a program values choice. We're sure you'll thank yourself for it!

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