School District employee starting social skills class for autistic children

By Brandon Gustafson | Sep 05, 2019

Dayna Sanders has worked in the Mukilteo School District for a few years now.

A licensed speech-language pathologist, she also recently started her own company, Next Level Speech Therapy, which provides online speech therapy for those unable to do private speech therapy or those whose school districts may not have the speech therapists to fulfill the demand.

Now, through her company, Sanders is starting a new program, tailored towards building social skills and interactions for children with autism in the Mukilteo area.

“I saw a need for kids with autism to have an opportunity to socialize,” she said. “There’s nothing in the area for them, currently.”

Sanders came up with the idea due to her time working in the Mukilteo School District, and did some public outreach at Rosehill Community Center and through the Mukilteo Moms Facebook group. She said she was blown away by the immediate feedback.

“It’s really mind-opening the struggles some of these parents are having right now. I’ve heard, ‘Oh my gosh, this would be awesome’ and, ‘We’ve hunted for something like this. This is a godsend.’”

Sanders said she believes the closest program similar to hers is in Woodinville.

“I’ve heard wait lists for programs like these are full, but getting kids there can be tough for some parents,” Sanders said. “I really wanted to offer something closer for the Mukilteo community.”

Sanders said she does a lot of one-one-one speech lessons with children, many of whom are autistic, and that in one case, the child’s mom told Sanders she yearned for her child to have the opportunity to learn more about socializing.

“I have the skill set to do that. This can help multiple levels of people,” she said. “The community benefits from these social skills instructions.”

Specifically, the program will work on feelings and reading social cues, Sanders said.

“In one-on-one sessions, you can work on certain skills but you can’t really recreate specific scenarios,” Sanders said. “Things come up naturally in sessions. They’re working to recognize their feelings, but for our kids with disabilities, they can’t do that all the time.”

One area she hopes to focus on is identifying the difference between bullying and playful banter.

“There’s a difference there, especially in the tone of voice and some indirect cues.”

Starting off, the program is once a month, but Sanders said if it appears there’s a greater need for more sessions, she will try to add more classes.

Those interested in the program can go to nextlevelspeech.com. The first course is Sept. 14, and all classes take place at Rosehill Community Center.

 

 

 

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