Children’s Friendship Training (CFT) is a 12-session, social-skills and play-therapy outpatient treatment for elementary school-aged children, and their parents, to improve socialization behaviors in children diagnosed with mental health or behavioral disorders (including Autism Spectrum Disorder and Neurobehavioral Disorder Associated with Prenatal Alcohol Exposure). The program addresses children’s exclusion from peer groups due to inappropriate behaviors, teaches children skills for selecting and making new friends, and teaches parents skills for helping their children with more successful social interactions. UCLA’s Parenting and Children’s Friendship Program has implemented CFT to over 1500 children since 1991 and continues to provide the program at UCLA’s Semel Institute location.
Sessions are manualized according to a syllabus and occur for 1 hour on a weekly basis for 12 consecutive weeks. Examples of session topics include conversational skills, taking “no” for an answer, gender and age issues, making friends, play dates, resisting teasing, respect for adults, managing competition, and avoiding fights. Child session activities include reviewing homework from the previous session, presentation of session content, supervised play using material learned from the session, and assigning homework for the next week. Parent session activities include a review of the attempts and obstacles to using previously learned skills at home, the presentation of child session content and the roles of parents in the process, and creating contracts for tracking the progress of parent implementation of session material.
CFT is intended to be delivered by a licensed child psychologist or licensed clinical social worker. Class sizes should be limited to fewer than 11 children of elementary school age and the same parent should participate each week. The average time needed to implement this program is between 1 and 6 months.