“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” ~ Vincent Van Gogh
A group of teens took part in a day of pottery making at The Bray in Helena over the weekend. Attending the experiential pottery-making class was part of a group goal the teens chose together as a reward for their participation in their social skills group (scroll to see photos below).
AWARE FACT Child and Family Case Manager Nancy Meinhardt gathered this group of five teens who’ve been meeting for the last three months. According to Nancy, the group was created as part of an idea she had on AWARE Day in April.
“Teens are at an age that is not fun to go through young kid stuff,” Nancy said. “They need to know they’re not alone and that others feel the same way.”
So together, she and her Helena FACT teammates selected teens who were a part of their caseload to participate in a social group dedicated to supporting anxiety. Every Wednesday, the teens meet to have a little fun, participate in discussion and learn skills that will help them in their natural environments.
Nancy said the kids’ activities are chosen to specifically build upon their challenges. For example, usually after school on Wednesdays the group opens with a movement activity and snacks. They talk about their highs and lows of the week and then move into a skill building practice, including the use of excessive eye contact, sitting too close to a person or talking too loud.
Nancy said she and her team have seen wonderful growth from the teens who have participated in this first teen program AWARE’s team piloted in Helena.
Throughout, the boys and girls were rewarded with a small prize, candy or token for their participation. When they earned a token, they were able to redeem a prize or put it toward their group outing to The Bray. It took three months for the group of teens to earn 200 tokens to fulfill their group goal.
Nancy recognized one boy who was particularly challenged with his behaviors. She said he began to thrive after receiving therapy as well as taking part in the teen group.
“It’s amazing to see the change in him,” she said. “We’ve seen a huge change in a short amount of time.”
Since April, the boy has become more confident, gets along with his parents, is eager to go to school and has never missed a teen group session. In fact, each token that the boy earned has gone into the jar to help his group get to their pottery making class at The Bray.
Nancy said she and the Helena FACT team are starting a new teen group session at the beginning of the year. They’ll welcome a couple more teens to the group that is already in place.
“Sometimes the little things you do have lasting effects that you don’t even realize. That’s what my hopes are with all of these kids. You don’t see it right now but maybe the little things will have a great impact.”
Nancy was quick to recognize the entire FACT team for the support they’ve provided to this boy and the other teens who have also progressed through the teen program.
“It does take a team, and when we work as a team, the progress we make is pretty amazing,” she said.
While starting her career as an x-ray technician many years ago, Nancy eventually found her way to working with kids in a school setting. She became part of AWARE’s FACT team almost a year ago. Currently she’s working toward her master’s degree. She’s receiving supervision hours at AWARE to become a board certified behavior analyst.
The teen group gathered at The Bray in Helena to have some fun making pottery. They even invited and enjoyed a little friend while they were there.