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Small Steps Lead to Big Progress

Nadine Briggs

I have a 9-year-old boy in my program who is probably wondering, “why is Miss Nadine always smiling at me?” Honestly, I can’t help myself! This sweet little guy has attended our weekly, in-person, social skills program for 3 months. When he first began attending, his anxiety was evident. He didn’t speak to anyone unless we asked him to as part of an activity. He liked to build forts but didn’t interact with other kids who attempted to build with him. He quietly kept to himself and seemed to enjoy the toys more than his peers.

Focus on Anxiety, Understanding Friendship, and Small Tasks

We spent several weeks focusing on learning about anxiety while providing tips on how to manage those anxious feelings. We also explained what it means to be a friend to someone else. He was given small tasks to try each week. I would present the new task to him and then leave him to do the task when he was ready. He likes to please adults, so he always did what I suggested. The tasks were requests such as, “I want you to play something new that you have not played here before” or “how about you ask another kid to build that fort with you?” When he completed the task, he was praised with a specific reference as to the reason for the praise. As he continued to do the tasks, he began to make connections with the other kids. As he made connections, his confidence increased.

Bonding Over Fusing Pokémon

I knew that this child was crazy about Pokémon. He actually didn’t talk about Pokémon during the group but it is a strong interest for him. One day, we played a game where two Pokémon become fused together to create a brand new Pokémon. Most of the kids who attend our program love this game, regardless of their age. To say that he group was excited about playing this game would be an understatement. They were animated and excited every time a new Pokémon was formed. This 9 year old boy realized on this day that these are his people. They love what he loves which paved the way for friendship.

Friendship Formed

He met a friend that he began to play with every week and missed when the other boy was absent. Last week, he came into the center and right away asked his new friend to play the marble run game with him. I watched him play (yes, with that smile plastered to my face) and saw a shy, anxious boy who had become “unlocked”. He was initiating conversation, smiling, sharing ideas, and generally having a great time with his new friend. Both boys want to have a playdate this summer, and the parents have been informed so hopefully the families will make that happen.

By reducing his anxiety, giving him small steps toward the larger goal, letting him take those steps on his schedule, and giving him meaningful praise, this little guy found a new level of confidence. He also found his people and with his new skills, he found friendship.

If your child/teen/young adult needs coaching to help them make friends, contact us to schedule a trial or find out more about our weekly programs by contacting us at 978-764-2758 or

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