How Scope helped crack the code of emotions and friendship

Solving the mystery of social encounters through the Secret Agents Society

Starting high school is a big deal. Working out where you fit in new social hierarchies can be hard. Throw autism, ADHD or other health issues into the mix, and it can be a huge challenge for some teenagers.

This was the case for Brendan, a 14-year-old who lives with autism and ADHD.

After a difficult start to high school, his family was on the lookout for a positive program that would help him sharpen the social skills he’d need to make it through high school unscathed.

They found what they were looking for in the Secret Agents Society. This nine-week program, delivered by Scope and available through the NDIS, teaches kids about social skills and emotions in a fun and engaging way.

Brendan’s mum, Michelle, saw the benefit in the Secret Agents Society straight away. “My husband Matthew and I took turns to take Brendan each week, and immediately I could see how beneficial it was going to be for the whole family.

“There were five other boys in the group and Brendan understood that these boys were ‘just like him’. In the very first session I saw one of the boys come out of the room with a walkie-talkie on a ‘secret mission’ to find someone experiencing a different emotion.

“The clever way the group facilitators used games to drive practical tasks meant everyone found it fun to complete missions around identifying emotions or feelings in themselves and others.”

Based on evidence, delivered with some serious fun, the Secret Agents Society is an evidence-based program that is specifically designed for children on the spectrum. It uses engaging tactics like spy games and missions to help kids identify negative or unhelpful thoughts, and then equips them with strategies to get rid of those thoughts. It also helps kids to identify other people’s feelings – which is so important when you’re trying to make friends.

“Some kids might find it hard to make friends in conventional circumstances, leading them to be the target of bullying,” explains Kay McDonald, team leader and occupational therapist at Scope.

“Programs such as this one work at the kids’ level in a fun way they can understand and
learn from. The kids receive small rewards to encourage and build their skills and plenty of positive reinforcement from everyone involved.”

Brendan sums up the program beautifully. “Some of the SAS spy missions were very difficult. But I got some good tips on how to stay calm, how to ignore angry emotions and also some breathing techniques to practise.

“Mostly it was just a lot of fun and I made some good friends.”

And, after all, making friends is what it’s all about.