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Adapting The Friendship Saver

Researchers that have examined the successful implementation of programs in schools have consistently reported that successful outcomes are dependent upon implementation that is sensitive to a school’s individual needs, unique culture, logistical capabilities and limitations. 

This type of responsiveness requires a program that can be adaptable and individualised. However, researchers also affirm that a program needs to be delivered with fidelity, that is, the program needs to be delivered as intended, without deviating from its original design. These two competing principals are acknowledged and equally valued in The Friendship Saver. In order to help schools to achieve this balance, The Friendship Saver has been written with a degree of flexibility.

Firstly, it is recommended that the programs core concepts (such as Whole Body Listening, The Drama Triangle, etc.) are delivered as designed. That means, preserving the intended purpose of each concept, and communicating each concept to students with the visual imagery and associated wording intact. The visual imagery and wording (for example, as displayed by the program posters) have been carefully researched, are based on evidence, underlying psychological theory, and intentionally included in this program. The way the facilitator introduces these concepts is adaptable, with flexibility to be responsive to a school and its needs. Adaptations are described below, divided into two parts: Adaptions Part I and Adaptions Part II.


Program Set-Up

This manual is intentionally written without distinguishing between age or year levels. The program requires a level of language understanding, cognitive and social abilities that are typically present from seven years of age. The program themes are relevant for students from seven to seventy years of age. Different schools have introduced The Friendship Saver to their students at varied year levels depending on their needs and goals.

The Friendship Saver can be delivered in a single sex or mixed gender school.

This program is designed for a mainstream classroom, not intended for children with developmental delay. This program can also be used with a small withdrawal group of at-risk students, or can be used in a clinical setting (social skills group program), or as a resource for individual counselling.

It is recommended that developmentally delayed groups (intellectual impairment with IQ score of 70 and below) or groups with neurodevelopment disorders (children with autism spectrum disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) work through The Friendship Saver together with a qualified Psychologist, Speech Pathologist or Occupational Therapist. Clinicians are advised to adapt the program at their discretion and to move at a pace that suits the participants needs.


Program Delivery

The time allocated to address each concept can be altered based on the facilitator’s judgement of the group’s cognitive abilities, needs and time constraints.

The scripts provided within the manual are in italic font and are intended as a guide. The script can be adapted as required; adjusting the language to suit the cognitive abilities of the target group. While the language might change (more advanced for older groups or simplified for younger groups), the underlying intention of that discussion should be preserved.

The depth of discussion allocated to each concept can be adjusted based on the facilitators’ judgement of a groups understanding, the groups observed level of interest and engagement, and the level of significance that a concept bares for the particular cohort.

The activities within this manual are designed to consolidate students’ understanding of core concepts, and provide genuine opportunities for students to practice newly learnt social skills in groups. While the activities should not be omitted, the time allocated to group activities can be altered (expanded or reduced) depending on the facilitator’s judgement and potential time constraints.

Note: The group activities will need to be adapted when this program is presented to an individual during individual counselling sessions.

This manual is intentionally written with only a few examples of student conflict within various chapters, so that facilitators have the freedom to construct examples that are most relevant to the cohort, and reflect the students’ individual needs and issues. Throughout the program, the facilitator is encouraged to describe or demonstrate examples of student conflict to help students to link the program concepts to real-life situations. It can be helpful to start a mental log of conflict situations that you have observed to help you to construct engaging, realistic examples that are most relevant to the students in your school.

Each session in the program is important.

The sessions are ordered sequentially towards building a child’s foundation social skills, concepts and independent management of conflict situations. We do not recommend omitting any of the sessions however, a number of sessions can be presented together in the same 50 minute teaching block. This can shrink the program down from a 13 week program to a 9 week program if required.

Table 1 outlines the sessions that can be condensed and delivered in combination. It is highly recommended that facilitators first run the program in its intended form over 13 weeks in order to make informed decisions about session combinations.

Please Note: Session 5 (Emotions) and Session 6 (Making and Keeping Friends and The Onion of Friendship) are both content rich sessions. At times, it can be useful to work through these sessions over two sessions each. This might be an important adaptation for younger groups, but will extend the program duration.

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