Level Up with PEERS® is a program for Appalachian State University students who have difficulty with social communication and interaction, e.g., making and keeping friends, participating in conversation, handling disagreements, etc. This program includes weekly group and individual sessions to systematically teach and practice skills using the PEERS® Young Adult curriculum.
About the Program
Level Up uses the Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS®) Young Adult curriculum to support participants in group and individual sessions. You can learn more about PEERS® here.
During each group meeting, facilitators introduce a specific topic, provide multiple different examples using video clips and demonstration, and provide opportunities for participants to practice through role-play and discussion. Individual sessions are offered to participants between sessions to practice and individualize instructional content.
- Making and keeping friends
- Starting and maintaining conversations
- Entering and exiting group conversations
- Appropriate use of humor
- Electronic communication
- Skills related to dating/relationships
- Handling disagreements
Two overarching concepts, social thinking and self-determination, serve as a foundation to support social skill instruction in Level Up.
Social thinking, or the processing of social information (e.g., using and interpreting nonverbal signals, understanding others' point of view, etc.), is essential for success in relationships including those with classmates, professors, employers and others. The concept of social thinking is taught in Level Up through explicit instruction, group and individual activities, demonstrations, and video modeling.
Self-determination refers to how an individual controls his or her own life. In Level Up, explicit instruction is used to teach strategies to support self-determination through being proactive, establishing goals and maintaining effective habits related to achieving goals.
Emily Lakey and Jennifer Van Gilder are speech-language pathologists who work in the Dept. of Communication Sciences & Disorders at Appalachian State University. They facilitate the Level Up along with speech-language pathology graduate student clinicians.
- Emily Lakey, Ph.D., CCC-SLP is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Appalachian State University. She has 10 years of experience working across the age-span with clients who have social-communication challenges in a variety of settings. Dr. Lakey is licensed as a speech-language pathologist in NC and is a certified PEERS® Young Adult provider. Her areas of expertise include autism spectrum disorders, early intervention and professional development.
- Jennifer P. Van Gilder, MA, CCC-SLP is a clinical educator and adjunct professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Appalachian State University. Mrs. Van Gilder is licensed as a speech-language pathologist in NC and is a certified PEERS® Young Adult provider. She has 20 years of experience working with school-age children, adolescents, and adults who have language-learning disorders and social communication impairments.