PEERS Program To Return In 2015-16 Thanks To Generous Grant

Thanks to a generous $25,000 grant from The Burton D. Morgan Foundation, Lawrence School is proud to announce that the revolutionary PEERS program will return in 2015-16.

PEERS, which stands for the Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills, was created by Dr. Elizabeth Laugeson of the UCLA PEERS Clinic and helps children improve social skills and make new friends. Dr. Laugeson was our honored guest speaker during the Community Education Series last fall and provided a full day of PEERS training for our faculty and staff while on-site.

Thanks to the generosity of The Burton D. Morgan Foundation a year ago, PEERS was offered to Lawrence middle school and high school students for the first time in 2014-15 and provided a long-sought-after answer to a difficult riddle.

“The most challenging conversations I’ve ever had with parents during my tenure at Lawrence School have centered on the child who struggles to make and keep friends,” said Lawrence Head of Upper School Jason Culp. “More than one parent has expressed their desire for their child to have ‘just one friend’ and asked pointedly what Lawrence School could do to help their child in this regard.

“For many years, I had very little to offer these parents and both the parent and I left conversations feeling frustrated,” Culp continued. “It seemed impossible to believe that there was not some way to teach students who struggle with social relationships how to make and keep friends.  Surely, if we can teach reading, writing and math as successfully as Lawrence School does, we ought to be able to teach social and friend-making skills effectively as well.”

Thus began a multi-year search for an evidence-based program that went beyond teaching basic social skills and which instead emphasized what students needed to learn how to do in order to make and keep friends.  

“Thanks to generous support from The Burton D. Morgan Foundation, PEERS became a viable option last year,” Culp said. “PEERS is the only evidence-based program designed to teach students how to make and keep friends that is specifically aimed at adolescents with learning differences. 

“Finally, there was a structured, systematic and hierarchical method for helping socially isolated and socially neglected students find their way through the maze of interpersonal connections and relationships. The science of making and keeping friends would no longer remain a mystery.”

The results after the first year of the PEERS program at Lawrence have been profound. Students have been engaged in the lessons and practicing skills at home and in social situations.

In fact, the program has been so successful that Lawrence will be offering a special summer session of PEERS – which is open to Lawrence School students and non-students alike in Grades 7 and 8 – starting next month. For more information, please see our Summer Programs page.

“Parents have noted that they have begun to see their children interacting with peers in ways they have not seen before,” Culp said. “One parent notes that her daughter now has 35-minute phone conversations with friends that she initiates. This is a child who never would have considered calling a friend to talk before the PEERS program.”

Lawrence School is proud to be the only school in northeast Ohio and one of just two schools in the state to offer the PEERS program. Jeff Starner, who is our new Director of Social and Behavioral Support, is one of several Lawrence faculty members certified to teach PEERS.

“From the first day I was introduced to PEERS, I was immediately excited to bring it back to Lawrence and work with the students,” Starner said. “Having the opportunity to put the program into action and see the positive results so quickly has been extremely gratifying.”

For more information about the PEERS program, please visit the PEERS website or watch this video of Dr. Laugeson discussing her book, The Science of Making Friends.

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