Return to Programs
Overview

Age From: 

8

Age To: 

12

Delivered To: 

  • Children/Students
  • Parents/Carers

Components: 

  • Component 4 : Helping children with mental health difficulties

Issues: 

  • Social and emotional skills
  • Parenting education

Overview: 

Target group

The Secret Agent Society program was originally developed for children aged 8 to 12 years who have been diagnosed with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder. A recent pilot trial has suggested the program is also effective for students who have other diagnoses, such as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and social anxiety disorder.

Delivery By: 

  • Allied health professionals

Aims: 

The Secret Agent Society program aims to teach students with social and emotional difficulties how to recognise emotions in themselves and others, express their feelings in appropriate ways (with a focus on managing anxiety and anger), build and maintain friendships with others, solve social problems and prevent and manage teasing and bullying behaviour.

Implementation/Delivery

State/s Available: 

  • National

Details: 

The Secret Agent Society program is a multi-component social skills program designed to improve the emotional understanding and social skills of children aged 8-12 years with social and emotional challenges, such as autism spectrum disorder. Skills targeted include:

  • Understanding that emotions exist on a continuum
  • Identifying emotions from physical body cues
  • Identifying simple and complex emotions (embarrassment, confusion, sarcasm, boredom) in others, from face, body, voice and context clues
  • Coping with feelings of anxiety and anger
  • Talking and playing with others
  • Coping with making mistakes, changes in routine, and feelings of uncertainty and confusion
  • Solving social problems
  • Distinguishing accidents and friendly jokes from intentional nasty deeds
  • Dealing with bullying and teasing. 

Program Structure / Methods of Delivery: 

Program structure

The SAS program consists of weekly 90 minute child group lessons delivered over 9 weeks (or 18 x 45 minute lessons delivered once or twice weekly). Within a school setting, the program is ideally co-facilitated by two trained SAS facilitators with groups of four to six children (minimum of three children). If this is not possible, a single practitioner may deliver the program to a maximum of three children. Group lessons involve facilitators supporting children to participate in games and activities that teach them emotion regulation and friendship skills. Children are introduced to new skills and concepts through a computer game that they play at home and/or at school between group lessons. They also complete weekly ‘missions’ at school and at home to practise their newly learned skills.

 

Based on parent and staff preferences, parent information sessions are delivered as four x two hour sessions over the course of the program, or as weekly or fortnightly 30-45 minute sessions. Program facilitators advise parents and carers on how they can support their child to apply the skills from the program to real world contexts. Resources for the parent information sessions (including PowerPoint Presentations and a Parent Workbook) are included with the program materials.

The program includes three- and six-month follow-up sessions for children and parents to review learned skills and to help them to problem-solve new social challenges.

 

Program facilitators are provided with the resources to deliver an introductory program information session to school staff. Facilitators also give weekly Teacher Tip Sheets to children’s classroom teachers and other support staff to inform them what students are learning in the program, and how they can support them in using these skills in the classroom and playground.

The Secret Agent Society program can be delivered in either school or clinic contexts.

 

Methods of delivery

The Secret Agent Society uses workbook activities, visual supports, interactive games and between-session practice tasks to help children learn, rehearse and apply skills in emotion recognition, emotion regulation and social interaction. The program is delivered to parents and carers via PowerPoint presentations and a parent workbook. Classroom teachers and other support staff are educated about the program through a PowerPoint presentation and weekly tip sheets. A Home-School Diary is also used by parents and teachers to monitor and reward children’s social skill usage at home and at school.

 

Staff professional learning (PL):

Facilitators are required to attend a two-day training course in order to deliver the Secret Agent Society group program. Generally, facilitator training is only offered to practitioners who have tertiary qualifications in allied health, education or social services and who have had a minimum of six months experience working with children who have social and emotional challenges, such as autism spectrum disorder. Once facilitators have completed the training and deliver the group program, they can apply to be accredited. Accreditation is optional.

Cost: 

SAS Family kit:  $292.60 (including GST) + $25.85 postage and handling within Australia

Contains all of the materials a family needs to participate in the Secret Agent Society program, including:

  • Student workbook
  • Student computer game
  • Student gadget pack
  • Student drawstring bag to carry materials to and from each session
  • Parent workbook
  • Teacher Tip Sheet pack

Computer Game Pack: $236.5 (including GST) + $15.95 postage and handling within Australia

The Secret Agent Society (SAS) Computer Game Pack features a fun, interactive computer program that teaches 8 to 12 year-olds about emotions and social skills.

 

Board Game: $110.00 (including GST) + $22 postage and handling within Australia

The Secret Agent Society (SAS) Challenger Board Game helps children practically apply the social skills that they learn in the SAS Computer Game Pack resources.

 

Other packs and games are also available for purchase. Please see the website for details:  

www.sst-institute.net

Program Specific Audience: 

KMP

Structured Sessions: 

4

Student Assessment Measures: 

4

Professional Learning: 

  • Restricted Professional Learning Available

Professional Learning Compulsory: 

Yes

Formal Parent/Carer Component Provided: 

Yes
Evidence of Effectiveness

Evidence of Effectiveness Rating: 

4

Evidence of Effectiveness Description: 

Multiple studies demonstrate improvements in social and emotional management skills and functioning with one study showing improvements were maintained at 5 month follow up. 

Identified Theoretical Framework: 

Yes

Identified Theoretical Framework Description: 

The Secret Agent society draws on multiple theories and frameworks to help children learn to:

  • recognise emotions in themselves and others from facial expressions, body posture and voice tone cues;
  • accurately read social situations and social problems by putting face, body, voice and situational cues together;
  • solve social problems through using a step-by-step formula;
  • use relaxation strategies in times of stress and to identify and challenge unhelpful thoughts to feel happier, calmer and braver; and
  • cope when they are unable to change a challenging social situation through problem solving or persistent effort (e.g., struggling academically despite their best efforts).

The theories and frameworks that the Secret Agent Society draw on include: theory of mind, weak central coherence, executive functioning deficits, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) and developmental psychology. 

Survey/Audit Tools Available: 

Yes

References: 

Beaumont, R., & Sofronoff, K. (2008). A multi-component social skills intervention for children with Asperger Syndrome: The Junior Detective Training Program. The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 49, 743-753.

Further information and updates about ongoing evaluation research can be found at http://www.sst-institute.net/au/parents/research/

Author(s)/Contacts

Author(s): 

Dr Renae Beaumont

About the Author(s): 

Dr Renae Beaumont is the Head of Practitioner Training and Support at the Social Skills Training Institute and an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Queensland. Renae has over 10 years clinical, teaching and research experience in child psychology. She has presented at conferences in Australia and internationally on her research into effective interventions for children with social-emotional challenges, in addition to co-authoring numerous book chapters and published research papers. Renae has received several international awards for her work, with the Secret Agent Society Family Kit winning the 2014 US Learning Magazine Teacher’s Choice Award for the Family.

 

Contact Information: 

Social Skills Training Institute

P.O. Box 6068

St Lucia, Queensland 4067

Phone: 07 3720 8740

Email: sas@sst-institute.net

Group Facilitators Directory: http://www.sst-institute.net/au/documents/pdfs/group-facilitators/AUSTRALIA%20-%20SAS%20Facilitators.pdf