*Our son started attending Sensory Social Playgroup (SSP) shortly after he turned 4. My son has sensory processing disorder that mainly affects his vestibular, proprioceptive and auditory systems. A year and a half later, he continues his time at SSP during the school year (with ongoing OT). His and our experience with Cassie and Fiona has been phenomenal. They've reported that our son is well regulated at SSP; which I believe is due to the way Cassie & Fiona structure the playgroup and support the children.
We, as a whole family, benefit from the pro-socio-emotional tools/lessons Cassie & Fiona teach. Every "semester" there is new content and reinforcement of already familiar concepts. The weekly summaries they distribute via email have been great parenting tools for us to learn from; they've helped us better support our son when inevitable and understandable conflict arises (at home, at school, with us, with other kids, etc). SSP has also given us a shared language to help problem solve and support our son better. We've also shared weekly summaries with our school and caregivers. Cassie and Fiona have also been wonderfully responsive with ideas and solutions when our son's teachers have had questions on how to better support him in the classroom. They are invaluable partners.
Our son has never wanted a birthday party even though he loves going to them. The attention is overwhelming for him and he dislikes people singing the birthday song. This year was the first year he asked for a small party and the two children he invited were his buddies from SSP. I think that's testament to the culture that Cassie and Fiona work so hard to cultivate at SSP.
I highly recommend Sensory Social Playgroup.
Written by mother of Beckett, 5 years old
*We will miss you guys so much!
You both have been so incredibly supportive of our family these four years and we deeply appreciate all that you have done for T and attribute so much of his progress to you both. It's not easy to forget that playgroup was the one few safe spaces where he was able to have a positive social outlet and peer experiences.
You both are such wonderful amazing people and we want to thank you with all our heart. We felt so lucky to have had you in our lives and honestly don't know what we would have done without you the past years. It was such a special experience for L to be able to join in this summer and learn the language and it has been a wonderful bonding experience for them both.
Written by mother of T and L, 7 and 4 years old
*I just wanted to say how much Charlie has enjoyed the playgroup. Last night he told me "I made ten best friends! I want to do that again!" Thanks so much for providing such a warm and safe environment for kids to practice these skills.
Email from Charlie’s mom on his last day of SSP, 4 years old
*We feel so fortunate to have found Sensory Social Playgroups. Our daughter’s growth exploded once she joined SSP. The SSP strategies have become part of our family’s daily life, and our daughter uses these tools in other settings frequently, often trying to teach them to her friends and teachers. The growth and development we saw in our girl at SSP made it very clear to us that our daughter was at the wrong preschool, and with Cassie and Fiona's guidance we were able to find a much better fit. We will be forever grateful for their support and for giving our daughter a wonderful set of tools. Cassie and Fiona have created a truly magical program.
We also are grateful for the friends we made at SSP. Many of our daughter's best buddies are SSP classmates, and we loved being part of a supportive community. Parents exchange ideas and share information regarding resources, and all of the children are working through something, so play dates are delightfully free of judgement.
Written by parents of C, 5 years old
*Our daughter started SSP in first grade and our only regret is that we didn’t find Fiona and Cassie sooner! Sadie’s anxiety has lessened and her ability to navigate social situations has grown exponentially since starting SSP. And she truly looks forward to each week because it is so much fun! Words can’t express what a relief it is to find caring adults who not only understand your kid but who know how to help.
Written by mom of Sadie, 8 years old
*Stella learned the language she needed to confidently express herself, join others in play and generally make herself more comfortable around her peers. And what’s more she taught us that language! Now, instead of wondering what’s going on from our own respective corners, we can engage in a more enlightening conversation about feelings, reactions, predictions and consequences both in preparation for new situations and in reviewing them. Cassie, Fiona and Laura as well as Mousy-Mouse and Ratty-Rat are unintimidating, positive and encouraging so that Stella looks forward to having fun at playgroup every week!
Written by mom of Stella, 4 years old
*SSP came into our family’s life right when we needed it most. With Fiona and Cassie’s care and guidance, we were able to see more clearly through our daughter’s eyes and help her practice the tools she needed to be her best self while with her peers. SSP gave Ellie the perfect environment to be creative and make good friends in a place she felt safe and loved, all while tending to her sensory needs AND having tons of fun! We saw so much growth in Ellie – we watched her become a more empathetic friend, a confident leader and to learn to let the little things go. Ellie always looked forward to her weekly playdates with the group and we loved hearing about her adventures. We are so grateful for our time at SSP and for Fiona and Cassie’s dedication and compassion!
Written by mother and father of Ellie, 6 years old
*We are so thankful we found Fiona and Cassie and SSP for our son Alex. Alex participated in a spring semester, summer session, and fall session. Over that time, we watched him grow in confidence and maturity. As a kid who had a hard time recognizing social cues, Alex really benefitted from the skill-building exercises around recognizing how other kids are feeling and making "me plans" into "we plans." He also was able to build a vocabulary to help him express his feelings in constructive ways instead of lashing out, and he learned coping strategies for calming down when he gets upset. The SSP curriculum is extraordinary, and Fiona and Cassie really get kids with sensory and social issues. It was a relief to have experts help us understand our son better, and Alex seems to have been relieved to find a group of kids more like him -- he felt more understood. We also were very impressed at the detail and care in the weekly notes Fiona and Cassie sent out. The notes really helped us understand what our son was learning and how we could reinforce those lessons at home and school. We were able to share the lessons with other members of Alex's support team to make sure everyone was speaking the same language and using similar techniques. Alex loved SSP, and we love how he's grown and flourished under Fiona and Cassie's caring, skillful guidance.
Written by Mother of Alex, 8 years old
*Dear Cassie and Fiona,
After much discussion we have decided not to take a place in next semesters playgroup.
What you both have accomplished with KiKi is nothing short of amazing. The scared little girl on her first day has blossomed under your guidance.
We will be forever grateful to you both.
Written by Mother of Kiki upon her graduation from SSP. At SSP from 4 years old to 8 years old
*Our son oldDuncan has come a long way from when he first began attending SSP. The framework Cassie and Fiona have built has allowed our son to learn concepts and language around how to interact and feel good about his peer interactions. The structured peer activities have enabled him to better understand his own emotions and become more open to dealing with feelings that come from the many social learning situations available in the program. All the activities are perfectly masks as pure fun playtime.
Cassie and Fiona have found simple ways to offer tactics and queue words for how best to rise to the occasion in a social situation. By way of weekly email updates, pictures, and small homework tasks, Cassie and Fiona also do an amazing job of sharing with us, as parents, the same concepts and language. This has enabled us to be consistent with home learning opportunities.
We continue to enroll session after session because our whole family gets the chance to reinforce the concepts while Duncan continues to practice in areas in which he still has challenges. Duncan has become more confident and flexible after each new session. We couldn’t be happier with his progress. Without Cassie and Fiona, we wouldn’t have been equipped to respond or proactively manage our son’s struggles in such a positive and creative way. We would recommend SSP to any family who has a child struggling to connect with peers.
Written by the parents of Duncan, 4 years old
*I am so very grateful we had the opportunity to have our son with you. Had he not aged out, we certainly would have returned for the next session! We are still using the common language we learned at SSP to work through tricky spots and celebrate successes. We made a "memory book" of your photos and weekly follow up notes which we still refer to. I am so happy with the skills he/we learned, that he had a safe, welcoming place to experience big feelings and discovered ways to use them constructively with his peer group. The other families in our session were also so supportive and friendly. My only wistful hindsight thought is would that we had found you sooner. We smile when we go by your location remembering what a lovely experience we had.
Written by mother of Ian, 8 years old
*Our daughter Lily looks forward to SSP every single week, and so do we. She runs as fast as she can to the front door, peeking inside the windows and mail slot until the door opens, because she can’t wait to play with Cassie, Fiona, and Laura. She has made so much progress in the year she has been part of the group. She has learned how to advocate for her needs, as well as identify what she and others are feeling, and practices being “superflex” at home. We truly credit SSP in helping her learn to be a good friend and what that means. We also love that all of the children have different learning styles and profiles, so Lily is learning to play with a variety of friends.
Cassie and Fiona provide a play environment that feels safe, comforting, and gives Lily so much confidence to try new things. There is no other group like this in the city or the bay area. Their curriculum is totally unique to SSP. Our entire family looks forward to the emails from playday, that provide not only the tools and resources they are using, but images of the all of the children engaging and playing. Lily LOVES to narrate these, often giving us more of the story and we feel totally empowered as parents to reinforce what is happening in playgroup at our home.
Cassie and Fiona have a unique understanding of Lily and provide a progress meeting during the session to discuss her strengths, challenges, and navigate any of these or questions we may have. Every single time we meet, I am blown away by how well they know Lily, their explanations of her, and the tools they give us to work with at home. We will continue to sign up until Lily ages out! We feel truly blessed and grateful to have SSP on our weekly agenda and recommend any child, typically developing or not, to sign up.
Written by mother of Lily, 4 years old
*My daughter literally jumps for joy while she waits for the doors to open and playgroup to begin. She never has to be convinced to put her shoes on or get moving when it's time to go to Cassie and Fiona's. Cassie and Fiona teach social skills and emotional regulation using overlapping strategies (songs, puppet shows, colorful visual cues, physical gestures), so the lessons are continuously reinforced and every child can find a way to engage with the them regardless of his or her learning style. My daughter has learned a framework that helps her express and make sense of her emotions, and as a result she is making real progress on modulating her responses to everyday stresses or situations that confuse her. Because Cassie and Fiona place so much importance on communicating with families through emails and detailed playgroup summaries, our whole family knows the songs, phrases, and cues used at playgroup. That level of consistency means we can reinforce at home the lessons she learns in the group and we can build on her successes all week long. Cassie and Fiona have created a genuinely accepting, supportive and, most importantly, fun place where children can be themselves and experience the gratification of connecting with kids their own ages.
Written by mother of Adeline, 5 years old
*We are so appreciative of the warm and welcoming environment Cassie and Fiona have created at SSP and their amazing curriculum that has helped our daughter build her social and emotional skills. Before attending SSP, we were challenged in finding a place where she could work on these skills in a supportive space while building relationships with peers. We have seen amazing progress in terms of her learning how to express her feelings and to engage in play. We look forward to continuing this summer and fall as we feel strongly that what she works on at SSP equips her with the most important tools and skills she needs to thrive at this age and beyond.
Mom of Kathryn, age 3
*Julian was diagnosed with mild autism at the age of 3. He attends speech, OT, Theraplay and various other therapies, but the sensory social curriculum developed by Fiona and Cassie has been, by far, the most effective most noticeable. His interest in peers has grown, his ability to initiate and sustain play has been extended.
Although parents are not in the sessions, reading and practicing the emails from Fiona and Cassie are crucial to the success of the program. They are able to make an intimating task for our children fun and easy to learn.
Written by mother of Julian, 7 years old
*Cassie and Fiona’s class is the highlight of our 4 year old son’s week. He has come so far in such a short time in their hands. Our only lament is that we can’t send him all week! There are lots of anxious moments as we navigate the challenges of parenthood….The 2 hours at SSP a week are, of course, a huge benefit to our son, but also a huge lift for us. For those 2 hours, we know he’s in the best place he can be! Thank you Cassie and Fiona!
Written by parents of Vinnie, 4 years old
*We have so enjoyed having our daughter at SSP. She always loves going, and emerges from the door at pick-up with a huge smile on her face. She doesn't talk much about the things that they work on there, but thanks to the extremely detailed summaries that are sent out within hours of the playgroup ending, we always know what she's talking about when she spontaneously uses a learning from the experience. Like when she'll have a conflict and unprompted, say she'll be "Superflex" about it. Or when she calls us out on using a "stinky sock voice". She's also made some lovely friendships, which have gone on to become friendships for our whole family. We also can't say enough about how warm, caring and supportive Cassie and Fiona have been. We wish our daughter could continue to go to weekly playgroup forever!
Written by mother of Ana, 4 years old
*Cassie and Fiona are AMAZING! They both have a natural ability to understand and support children in a kind, safe and nurturing way. Our son loves to go to play group. He has learned so much about himself, having friends and interacting and engaging in reciprocal play with his peers all while having fun! The language and tools Cassie and Fiona have given him to express himself and how he is feeling has helped us understand him more and support him in new ways at home. The improvement in his ability to self regulate has been incredible along with his awareness and ability to read the emotions of those around him.
The weekly emails, pictures and suggested ways to help at home are so helpful and insightful. Utilizing their suggestions has also made a world of difference in the dynamic between my son and daughter. They both now have tools to use as they play together and my daughter is having an easier time relating to and understanding her brother. They now have some common ground as we institute fun projects like the Sam Can and the engine checker, and social helpers such as "redo’s" and "stop, look, listen".
In the year that we have been a part of SSP, our son has blossomed and is now thriving both socially and emotionally. We feel so blessed to have found Cassie and Fiona when we did - they have been an invaluable resource for our son and our family.
Written by mother of Max, 4 years old
*Our son, now age 5.5 years old has attended playgroups for the past year and a half. We cannot emphasize the positive impact this playgroup had had on his development and interactions with peers! When our son first began preschool, his teachers noted that he had difficulty initiating and sustaining play with peers, but didn't know how to help. SSP uses age-appropriate language and concepts to facilitate social language and to help him recognize social cues. Our son's teachers, speech therapist and pediatrician have noticed drastic improvement in his social skills and attribute it directly to participation in SSP.
As further evidence of our enthusiasm for SSP, we continue to attend SSP even though we no longer live in SF! It is so worth these efforts- and our son loves these sessions! We are so grateful to have found this resource and recommend it to other families without reservation.
Written by mother of Oscar, 5 years old
*First of all, I would like to extend my deep thanks to both of you for the amazing work you are doing with the Sensory Social Playgroup. We have been amazed by the behavioral changes we have seen in Malcolm in just the two short weeks of the playgroup - he is demonstrating a much greater degree of emotional self-awareness and self-regulation than we would have imagined possible over such a short period of time. He also seems to be engaging more easily in reciprocal communication with both peers and adults. Most importantly, he has gained these skills in such a joyful and ostensibly effortless way. The stories and songs of Ratty-Rat and Mousie-Mouse seem to resonate with him on a very deep, very personal level.
Written by mother of Malcolm, 4 years old, after completing SSP Summer Semester
*I wanted to share a story from this weekend. On Sunday morning, Ry’s little brother (2 years old), accidentally slipped whiled running down the hall and fell down head first, bumping his forehead hard against the door. While I am picking up our 2 year old to comfort him, Ry ran to the kitchen and made an icepack, putting fresh ice cubes in a zip lock bag, then instructed his little brother to go and lie down on the couch as we put the icepack over his forehead. Ry then goes to the kitchen and pours water into a cup to serve his little brother, all on his accord. Next Ry brings over his "calming treasure box" and offers his lovey, a luau necklace with flowers which he asks his little brother to smell and then "blow the candle", using a pen as the candle (everything he learned from Sensory Social Playgroup). Watching Ry do all of this on his own with so much love was magical. While Ry still has his moments and we still need to work on a number of things, I am absolutely amazed at all the he has learned after just spending a week at Sensory Social Playgroup. My husband and I are also learning tremendously how to deal with different situations better from your daily tips of the day. I would like to give a Big Thank You to Teachers Fiona and Cassie for teaching our son how to show compassion and the wonderful gift of friendship! We are looking forward to sending Ry back for the Fall semester!
Written by Mother of Ry, 5 years old, after completing SSP Summer Semester
*We were on the fence on if our son needed SSP or not and we made the best decision! The social skills taught by Cassie, Fiona and the crew are invaluable. We strongly believe that a SSP course should be mandatory in every school in the world and in probably every workplace. Our son’s recommendation to join SSP by his pre-school was a light one. It was hard for the pre-school teacher to describe the benefits so we didn't know what to expect. As a parent you feel that you can teach the necessary social or emotional skills or that your son will grow out or into it. To think that we were about to pass up the opportunity seems absurd now. The testimonials here from other parents about kids recognizing their actions and how their motor is running is true. Our child now feels it is natural to communicate to us how he is feeling so we as parents can better respond to his needs in a particular situation. Prior to SSP our son could only express frustration because he just didn’t have the tools or words to express himself. In the past year we've seen how he’s grown into a helpful, mindful child, whose social interactions are good with much less frustrating moments. SSP has changed our family dynamic. Kind is contagious. Thank you doesn’t say enough."
Written by mother and father of Tron, 5 years old
*SSP has been one of the best things to happen to our family. Our daughter has sensory issues which resulted in her being very withdrawn and quiet at preschool. She started at SSP shortly after we had a diagnosis and whilst we were still reeling from the idea that our child had a problem. We were apprehensive about what out child could learn in a playgroup full of children with social issues. We could not have been more wrong. The children in her group were a varied bunch who over the weeks really connected with and learned from each other. I honestly think any child, even those without any social issues would benefit from SSP.
From the start, SSP became our daughter favorite activity and something she really looked forward to all week. The ‘homework tasks’ were fun activities we could do together as a family and they really helped her to really grasp some of the concepts she was learning. I feel that the homework also helped me, as a parent, to stop and think much more than I had been doing before.
After one semester at SSP, our child started to blossom into the confident, articulate and self-aware girl that she is today. SSP has given her the tools to name and identify her emotions and those of her friends, and to calm down when she is hit by negative feelings or emotions, which has led to less frustration and more empathy and understanding of herself and others. As a result, she has become so much happier, more regulated and co-operative and easier to parent. In addition, Cassie and Fiona have been reassuringly holding our hands to help us over some tough situations that have come up on the way, via email chats, conferences and a one-to-one formal consultation we chose to have.
I notice differences between our daughter and children who have not been at SSP. When she has inevitable altercations with other children on playdates over sharing toys , etc., our daughter is able to stop, identify her feelings and calm herself down or to ask for help, whilst the other child continues to be upset. This really blows my mind!
Our daughter is coming to the end of her second semester at SSP and we feel that she is prepared for her next phase, armed with invaluable tools that she will have for life and we will always be grateful to Cassie and Fiona for giving them to her.
Written by mother of Alexandra, 4 years old
*Cassie and Fiona combine a wealth of skill and experience with amazing powers of observation. Our son is very social and talkative, and thrives on interaction with other people. When his teachers suggested Sensory Social Playgroups we were a little skeptical at first, but the playgroup has really helped us to become aware of certain things he struggles with in ways we hadn't put together before.
In our parent-teacher conference, we were tremendously impressed at how well they knew our son and were able to describe his strengths and challenges in interacting with other kids. Most importantly, we appreciated their thoughtful suggestions about how to reinforce what he's learned from playgroup in terms of collaborating in a team, managing disappointment, recognizing and working with strong feelings, and other skills. They also send home weekly photos and summaries with suggestions for reinforcing activities throughout the week. For our son's part, he loves going to playgroup and hanging out with the other children. Although we have had variable success in doing the 'playgroup activities' at home, we have definitely seen the group's positive effects, as have his teachers, and we've definitely grown in terms of our own parenting skills!
Written by mother of Soren, 6 years old
*We are so happy that we found SSP and enrolled Ben this past semester. While I was hesitant to add another thing to our already busy therapy schedule, I can say without a doubt that Ben is benefitting from his weekly sessions. Not only do we notice this at home, but his teachers and other therapists have also commented on his awesome progress. It is so exciting to see him approach other children and start to make real connections with his peers. At home, we love reading the weekly updates and incorporating the visuals and language into our vocabulary at home. Enrolling Ben in SSP has truthfully been great for our whole family!
Written by mother of Ben, 5 years old
*I am so grateful to SSP for the tools they have given my family. I wish I had discovered it a year ago. My son does not have any diagnosed conditions. We have only received positive feedback from any group he has participated in (classes, pre-school, Sunday School). But at home, he has had significant and frequent emotional and physical tantrums that brought me to tears daily. I read multiple parenting books and tried without much success to implement their techniques. I also met with a therapist who gave me other techniques that led to some minor success. Finally, a friend recommended SSP. Now, through this program my son receives 2 hours a week with Cassie and Fiona during which time they introduce ideas that help him understand his emotions and give him a deepening desire to regulate them. Further, they send me homework that equips me with the same tools to reinforce the learning at home. We’ve seen dramatic change. Although we still experience some of the same challenges, they have reduced significantly. Our whole family (including my younger son) use all of the techniques. My self confidence to parent well has increased dramatically. My son loves going to the group. He talks about it throughout the week and is so excited when the day arrives. One day I asked him after class, “What did you learn today?” and he said “We don’t learn anything! We just play.” Exactly. Now that we go to this class, I wonder where I would be without it. Thank you, Fiona and Cassie. You have been a great blessing to my family’s life.
Written by mother of Liam, 4 years old
*We feel very lucky to have found Sensory Social Playgroup to support our son’s social emotional growth. We looked into other social playgroups but nothing compares to this program. It has given our child the vocabulary to express his big emotions and provides tools to effectively work through challenges. The group sets up a variety of play opportunities where our son was able to learn from the process. It has been wonderful to watch our son bring the vocabulary and techniques into his daily life.
Written by mother of Bear, 5 years old
*Our son Haven absolutely loves SSP and wishes he could attend every day! In the several short months that he has been enrolled, we've noticed a dramatic change in his confidence level and awareness of others in social situations. While he has always been a happy and secure child, he was not picking up on the "rules" of social interactions at school and was often left out as a result. He now understands his own emotions as well as the give and take of friendships much better and is doing well. Fiona and Cassie are well versed in promoting social-emotional development in children. They are also very warm, supportive, and understanding of all the children's temperaments. We are truly grateful that our son has SSP in his life. Thank you!!
Written by mother of Haven, 4 years old
*Before my son started SSP, he had poor social skills, language delays and social sensory issues that made him different from his peers at school. Starting with the Summer Intensive Camp and now weekly SSP playgroups he is a transformed child. He is able to identify how he feels emotionally, what he needs to do to mitigate those feelings, how to play with other children and how to understand and respond to their feelings. We see a tremendous change in his behavior in all areas of his life. Cassie and Fiona are wonderful, caring, empathetic people who genuinely care about the children they are helping and it shows. My son loves them and we feel like they have a wonderful and constructive way of engaging the children. I also love how they send weekly emails with pictures of the children that demonstrate what they are working on and give tips on how to continue the work at home. There is no other program as helpful inside and outside of the classroom and we are grateful to SSP and Cassie and Fiona for being so dedicated to what they do.
Written by mother of JW, 3 years old
*We enrolled our son this Fall semester and have been very happy that we found SSP! From the start, the in-take and processing were well-coordinated and smooth. Fiona was very responsive and answered all the questions I had. Around the time we enrolled in SSP, our son also started a new school and was exhibiting some unwanted behaviors due to all the changes happening. When we checked in with SSP to see if they noticed anything and asked for feedback, we received a detailed response explaining why they think these behaviors may be happening, and provided some great suggestions, including incorporating tools introduced in class. Throughout our communications with Cassie and Fiona, we felt that they really understand our child and truly care for the kids’ development and well-being. Our son can’t wait to goto SSP each week, and I feel good knowing that he is learning lots of ways to help him communicate with peers, regulate his behaviors, feelings, and emotions, in a caring and safe environment, while having a great time!
Written by mother of Aidan, 5 years old
*We consider our family so fortunate to have found SSP. Before SSP, our 4-year old daughter had difficulty engaging and interacting with her peers. When other children approached her, she would physically and emotionally retreat. The tools that she has learned and the experience that she has gained at SSP have made such an incredible difference. She is now more aware of how she feels and better at self-regulation. She understands and can respond to social cues. She has developed an appreciation of how others feel and understands that the way we communicate with others can affect their feelings. She is able to initiate play with others and to join groups more effectively. Overall, she is much more confident in social interactions and is able to enjoy connecting with others. Her progress has been wonderful and, in the months that she has been attending SSP, we have have received a number of positive comments from her preschool teachers and other parents who have noted her development.
The best part is that all of this has been fun for her. From her first session, SSP has become the highlight of our daughter's week. She talks about how much she loves playgroup, she counts the days until the next playgroup, and she runs in joyfully at the start of every session. Cassie and Fiona have created such a warm, comfortable, safe environment for kids to learn, practice new skills and stretch their abilities. We wholeheartedly recommend SSP and working with Cassie and Fiona to any family considering it for their child.
Written by mother of Soraya, 4 years old
*Sensory Social Playgroups was introduced to us in the Fall of 2014 through our behavioral pediatrician. Our son at the time was having a difficult time adjusting to his new preschool class and the lead teacher. Some of the challenges for him at the time were impulse control, regulating his emotions, trouble with transitions and overall he was a high energy 4.75 year old boy with some sensory issues. Unfortunately for him his teacher was rather reactive to him and made this adjustment harder. We wanted to learn how we could best help our son and supplement what was not getting at school. We also wanted to educate his teachers on how they best could work him. Sensory Social Playgroups was a wonderful fit for our family. I dropped him off weekly during the fall, spring and summer sessions. He absolutely loved going to playgroup every week. We began to notice behavioral changes within the first semester we joined. The class provides families with examples to discuss emotions in a way that children can relate. Our son is quite a sensitive and emotional child. He very much responded to what he learned while in the class and this gave us a platform to discuss feelings and learning to model positive behavior.
Midway throughout a semester parents have the opportunity to privately meet with Fiona and Cassie and it was obvious that they really understood our son and gave very helpful and clear feedback. On a weekly basis parents received a summary of the day's learnings and what the children were interested in.
One note to parents, our son played very hard while at Sensory Social Playgroups and would crash afterwards for a good hour. I would suggest not scheduling a lot of activities after the class. We felt having the time to decompress after the class was important for our son. The experience was wonderful for us.
Written by mother of Isaac, 5 years old
We have been so thrilled with SSP and the wisdom of Fiona and Cassie. It has been a safe place for our son to learn how to engage and interact with peers. He started at age 3.5 when he had almost no skills for "playing" with peers. Since he has Childhood Apraxia of Speech, he relied on adults to communicate for him and guide him in all his social interactions. However SSP, was the perfect place for him to grow socially with the incredible support and tools of Cassie and Fiona. They even provide parents with tools each week to reiterate lessons from class so that we can incorporate them into our family life.
As his speech has grown, so has his desire to be with friends. There is no doubt in my mind, that our son, has flourished and grown into the social, confident being he is today, because of the hours of investment at SSP. The highlight on our son's 6th birthday was hearing him turn to a new kid at the park and say "do you want to play?" - a truly incredible blessing to hear! Thank you Fiona and Cassie!
Written by mother of Daven, 6 years old
We are very grateful Cassie and Fiona have created a program as unique as SSP to help kids play and interact with each other. Our son, Rowan, has always had difficulties relating to other children his own age, often preferring to play on his own or engaging adults/teachers in play instead of other kids. He also never “got” pretend play, and had no interest in any sort of role-playing. He has now been in the program for 2 semesters, and has learned so much. He is now much better at recognizing when and how to self-regulate himself, trying to interact with other kids, and pretending to be anything from a dinosaur to a restaurant waiter! We recently went camping with a few other families with kids around the same age, and it was amazing to see him so comfortable socializing and playing with the other kids.
Cassie and Fiona are one of the few truly experienced educators in the Bay Area who know how to teach kids who don’t naturally learn how to enjoy the company of other kids. They’ve taught Rowan and us a lot of strategies that we use in and out of the home to solve various problems that come up in everyday situations. We couldn’t be happier with Rowan’s progress and best of all, he loves going!
Written by mother of Rowan, 4 years old
*Our son, Dylan, had struggled to find his social footing from the earliest toddler stage. Whereas other children played interactively with one another in his preschool class and other similar environments, he was more comfortable in solo and parallel play. It didn't seem that he was unaware of or disinterested in his peers, but rather that he just wasn't sure what to make of them. On the other hand, he always found comfort with his teachers, whom he loved, and sought their affection.
Fast-forward 6+ months since Dylan began weekly Playgroup sessions, and the child we once thought was most certainly a shy introvert has revealed his true self to be an outgoing extrovert who loves school and other peer-involved activities so much, he doesn't want to "waste time sleeping" when he could be playing with his friends (thankfully, he does sleep!). Cassie and Fiona have created an environment he and every other child I've encountered there finds magical and nurturing. He looks so forward to Wednesdays, and so do I, because he can't wait to go to Playgroup - and it puts him in the best mood for the rest of the day - in fact, it sets the tone for the rest of the week!
If you are reading these testimonials and wondering if this is "really worth it," allow me to answer without hesitation - YES. Whatever your child's social struggles and peer interaction challenges...closing communication loops, recognizing and responding appropriately to others' feelings, collaborative and imaginative play...Cassie and Fiona, through Sensory Social Playgroups, provide the necessary tools for children, expertise for parents and genuine love for all to develop and succeed!
Written by mother of Dylan, 5 years old
*We love SSP! Our daughter, Naomi, has made tremendous progress with her social skills since she first started, a year ago. She has learned how to engage her friends in play, continue the play, and have fun! Naomi looks forward to class every week and she loves everything about the class. In addition, Cassie and Fiona are very experienced, and provide insightful, helpful responses to our questions. They have taught my husband and I how to communicate with our daughter, and help her address and overcome developmental challenges. We are so grateful for the love and care they have given us. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!
Written by mother of Naomi, 4 years old
*Thank you for the love and support you have given to our daughter as well as the tools and understanding you have shown her. We want the world to see her for the loving, sensitive, and kind soul that she genuinely is, and not just see her for the big reactions that she sometimes can have. You have really helped her see herself as the wonderful person she is and given her the guidance to help her learn to regulate herself in situations that are tricky for her. Thank you for creating a safe and magical environment where she and many others can thrive!
Witten by mother of Cammie, 5 years old
*We are SO grateful to have found SSP- it has been a safe place for our son, Chase, to work on many of the social and emotional challenges he's had- and the best part is that he absolutely LOVES going each week! Cassie and Fiona are so insightful- they have provided Chase with the environment he needs to explore social interactions in a positive way. The weekly email playgroup notes provide talking points and things for us to work on at home, which we have found to be invaluable for home and school! Cassie and Fiona truly understand our son, how to connect with him and make it incredibly fun along the way.
Written by mother of Chase, 5 years old
*Playgroup is our daughter’s favorite extra-curricular activity! She came out of this program with a better understanding of her own feelings, how important it is to be flexible in moments of frustration and how to continue peer play for extended periods of time. During prior peer conflict, her feelings would remain bottled-up inside which caused her to “shut down” and retreat from participating with the group. She would just go off by herself and play in her own self-directed activities. Not great when you’re starting Kindergarten with a class of new friends. Now, her back-and-forth interactions with other children are longer and she will seek out others to join in her play. She now has language to use with other children to express what she wants- while mindful of compromise, flexibility and shifting gears. It has also been wonderful to hear her “teach” her little brother some of the lessons from playgroup to help him work through his 3-year-old frustrations.
Written by mother of Annabel, 6 years old
*My 3 year old son Nicholas has sensory processing issues. He is sensory seeking and struggles with impulse control, transitions, and self regulation. SSP was recommended to us, and Cassie and Fiona have been an essential part in Nicholas improving and overcoming most of these issues. He has learned how to interact with his peers in a more positive way. When he is upset or struggling with regulation and attention, SSP has given him, and us, the tools to help him get back in the "green" and "just right" engine zone. He absolutely loves going to playgroup and talks about it all week! Cassie and Fiona have also been very responsive and helpful giving us individual advice as certain issues have come up at home and at preschool. His behavior has improved immensely in the 2 semesters he has attended SSP.
Written by mother of Nicholas, 3 years old
*Eric loves SSP - it is his favorite after school activity. While he thinks he is playing he is learning so much. Fiona and Cassie are wonderful working with Eric and gently guiding him towards better self control, awareness of his peers and playmates, and they have been instrumental in helping Eric learn to play with his classmates at school on the playground. I am so glad we have found SSP and that it has been such a good fit for Eric and our families. The take home tools have so useful and just make everything come together nicely. Thank YOU!!
Written by mother of Eric, 6 years old
*Playgroup has been the single most transformative program for our son. It's a fun, safe and welcoming environment where our son is always excited to see his friends. He was able to develop the social and behavioral skills to form stronger connections with his peers. In a very short time, he had the confidence to share what he learned and encourage others in their progress. The support and feedback from Fiona and Cassie is invaluable. The recaps from each visit offer simple but profound language and lessons that help us coach him in a supportive and easy manner.
Written by father of Nicolas, 7 years old
*Sensory Social Play Group has played an integral part of our sons sensory development. Having a school-like setting where he is accepted, understood and encouraged has been an important component in his ability to integrate himself with his peer and into school. We are truly grateful for Cassie and Fiona's program!
Written by mother of Karl Henry, 5 years old
*Our son struggled in his younger years to find appropriate ways to verbally express his emotions, and to have a measured reaction to frustrating moments. Cassie and Fiona helped make staying calm and cueing into social norms actually quite fun. For example, he loves talking about "Staying Super Flex!", "Driving My Green Machine!", and now let's us know if he "wants some quiet time" or is "feeling lonely." Going to playgroup is one of Winston's favorite activities and in fact, something he asks us about almost daily. The progress he has made in playgroup has been remarkable, and we are so thankful to have found Fiona and Cassie!
Written by mother of Winston, 4 years old
*Our child is a very sensitive child that needed sensory input to self-regulate. She struggled with transitions, drop-offs and new environments. The social sensory playgroup effectively equipped our child with the language to express her emotions constructively. The social emotional learning vocabulary she has is extensive and she is able to moderate and regulate herself effectively and quickly with the tools they have given her. This vocabulary has been a blessing for our family as we just need to use it to remind her of her actions and it helps immediately steer her to a better path. SSP helped her extensively with her transition to kindergarten, in particular to be better aware of her and other people’s personal space and move from one environment to another without stress. Fiona and Cassie provided the supervised group environment that was needed to learn and practice these skills. They are warm and loving people and we are grateful for all the skills they taught all of us! I would recommend this class, even for children without particular needs, for the astounding SEL awareness they will develop and the language/vocabulary they will learn to express themselves effectively.
Written by mother of Clara, 6 years old
*I cannot speak highly enough about Fiona and Cassie and the work being done at SSP. My daughter has mild to moderate dyspraxia, which caused her to socially retreat in preschool to protect her senses from surprising stimulus, and to protect her body from other kids, since her coordination was low.
I first brought my daughter to SSP entirely sure she would be fearful returning for the second session, as that is what we had grown to expect from her. After just one session, the impact on her confidence was clear and she was eager to return. Playgroup rapidly became the highlight of her week, and still is.
At SSP, Cassie and Fiona created the framework for my daughters social confidence to bloom. I've been so impressed and thankful for their talent to break down interactions and emotions for kids, and then equip them with skills that empower.
What my daughter has gotten from Cassie and Fiona has been life changing for her. I have no doubt what she is learning and practicing weekly at SSP will bolster her for the rest of her life. My greatest joy is seeing my daughter so quickly and viscerally enjoy the rewards of flexing her social muscles and nurture friendships. I could sing the praises of Cassie and Fiona for eternity.
Written by mother of Roxie, 6 years old
*My four-year-old son, Bence started to attend Cassie and Fiona’s playgroups before he was diagnosed with ASD. We were struggling with significant communication problems and lots of anxiety. At a time of sadness and desperation, Cassie and Fiona showed me that there is a way forward and they continue to do so by creating a fun and efficient learning environment that helps Bence learn skills I thought he would have great difficulties to acquire. He adores the sessions!
The ladies have incredible talent and knowledge to offer. They are kind, loving, competent, honest and realistic.
Bence asks to see them every single morning and wishes for a “CassieandFiona preschool”.
Cassie and Fiona’s approach is effective and “user friendly”. I appreciate the email updates with the photos after each session. I learned a great deal from the homework assignments for the week.
We are fortunate to have them in our lives, and as a special educator for over twenty years I am thankful to have my own child’s future in the hands of such truly dedicated and outstanding teachers.
Thank you for all you do Cassie and Fiona!
Written by mother of Bence, 4 years old
*We feel so blessed to have had this experience with Cassie and Fiona. Our 5 year old son has experienced transformative growth during his tenure with the group and my wife and I also both got kernels of wisdom and a great set of robust, highly practical and enlightening social tips and tools, each week, that were also profoundly helpful. The parent conference sessions were also of tremendous value to us and really helped us integrate the social mapping strategies of the playgroup with our son’s school and faculty as well. In a matter of months we went from having disruptive behaviors at school to getting glowing reports from our teachers about how well our son was now integrating and valuing school. The work and tools of you gave us provided him with the ability to really face new and unexpected events and changes in his routine and schedule with so much more flexibility and more adaptive responses, which was a remarkable shift away from his previous struggles he’d been having with change and unexpected events. Thanks, again, Cassie and Fiona; you’re both amazing, and we’ll always cherish this experience with look back upon it as such a seminal part of our son’s development. Eternally grateful!
Written by father of Owen, 5 years old
Our son started Cassie and Fiona's playgroup when he was three, following a very difficult first preschool experience. At first he would not even emerge from his hiding place under the large stuffed bear! Our son has grown tremendously from playgroup the past two years in his social awareness, his ability to self-regulate, and his capacity for reciprocal friendship. He has best friends at preschool now - a distant dream for us previously. He has learned how to identify his emotions and what he needs to stay in the just right zone (of regulation). Playgroup has been a consistently anchoring experience for him during the school week. Our son has formed extremely strong bonds with Cassie and Fiona, who have always greeted him with love, compassion, and acceptance. I have nothing but the highest regard for their professionalism and skill. SSP has been one of the most important factors in our son's progress over the past two years, and that the skills and concepts he has learned have become foundational to our family as well.
Written by mom of Jacob, 5 years old
*Through SSP, our 5-year old son has dramatically strengthened his social confidence and ease. His relationships with peers, teachers, and other grown-ups are more joyful and productive. Most importantly, he is happier and feels more successful. Key to his success has been the wonderful playgroup-home connection that Cassie and Fiona foster. We take Fiona and Cassie’s weekly email communications to parents and use many of the same words and techniques. It’s made all the difference in the world for our son and family!
Written by the parents of Nathaniel, 5 years old
*Our 8-year old daughter started with Cassie and Fiona's playgroup when she was just 4 years old, and it was apparent from the first day she walked into the play space that this would be a place where she could explore and grow. Year after year and semester after semester, it remains one of the few places where she feels comfortable and safe -- and where we know that she is understood and cared for. What a relief it has been to know that she is in such competent hands! Cassie and Fiona are incredibly insightful; they have provided our daughter with the environment she needs to explore social interactions in a positive way, and have been flexible in providing scaffolding and support that is specific to her needs. Through their efforts, she has expanded her social success with other children, and has acquired skills and tools that can be carried over into the school and home environments. Cassie and Fiona have become a great support system for us, and we are grateful to have our daughter be part of such a nurturing program.
Written by mother of Juliet, 8 years old
*My 7 year old son has spent the last year attending SSP with the very lovely and wise women, Fiona and Cassie. They were highly recommended by a colleague of mine and after a very rough start to Kindergarten we were both desperate.
Finn is a sensory seeker who struggled with making friends at his new school, transitioning from one activity to another and became easily excited, distracted, overstimulated and impulsive in unfamiliar environments. Over the past year, Finn has become a much more self-aware, reflective and collaborative boy who has learned to make transitions more easily and to think before he acts. He has learned to shake hands and to make eye contact with the director of his school every morning; has built solid friendships; is beginning to push out of his comfort zone more easily and to focus more consistently. Finn said to me one day that he wished he could spend everyday at playgroup.
Even his teachers greatly value the work that Cassie and Fiona have done with Finn. The balance between organized, active, collaborative play followed by group reflection and role playing has helped to reinforce the 'learning' and has provided Finn (and myself) with strategies to help him succeed socially. I am grateful for their incredible patience, wisdom and generosity and wish that all children (and many adults) could learn the important skills that they are teaching.
Written by mother of Finn, 7 years old
*Our son (almost 5) just completed his first 'semester' with SSP. He has learned and grown an extraordinary amount in this time - learned to be more aware of his and others' personal space, to use his words and not his body to problem solve, to compromise and be flexible, to regulate himself and to generally be more aware of others.
I continue to be awed by the wisdom and gentle guidance that Fiona and Cassie provide to the children. I have learned an enormous amount from their weekly email communications - not only about what and how my child is doing but about how to be a better parent.
We have also had the good fortune to have Cassie's counsel at our son's preschool - she was masterful at navigating some challenges that had come up for our son and his teachers.
We make the trek in from Marin to attend - I did a lot of research and talked to many people and the rave reviews from everyone are justified. And now I will add mine as well: Bravo to SSP for doing what they do with commitment and compassion!
Written by mother of Ryan, 4 years old
*The SSP program has been essential for our family, and we recommend it enthusiastically. We first came to Cassie and Fiona because we found our son to be anxious at times, particularly in new environments and during transitions. Despite his easy rapport with adults, he also found it difficult to develop sustained connections with his peers. We were fortunate to find Cassie and Fiona through a preschool referral when our son was three, and to witness the amazing evolution now that he is five. We have watched new families join, and they are quickly embraced into the group. Cassie and Fiona are very technically skilled and creative in teaching kids how to socialize and be good friends. They also approach their work with a lot of heart, and become friends and advocates to the children and families that they work with. SSP is successful because Cassie and Fiona provide children with a safe and joyful place to take risks and build self-esteem. They are also thoughtful and methodical, with specific tools, skills and catchphrases that children can take into other environments that are more challenging to them. When our son feels overwhelmed, for example, he now uses the "engine" curriculum (trying to get back into the "green" zone), takes deep breaths or leaves the action to find a quiet place. He has also learned to read social cues and can better understand if he is communicating successfully with his peers. He is able to stay engaged and collaborate on solutions ("how about…okay?"). Our son is a much more flexible and confident child, and this has opened up many new doors for him. We have also found Cassie and Fiona to be great collaborators with parents, occupational therapists, teachers and others in coming up with team approaches to issues.
Written by mother of Winston, 5 years old
*Our son is a "sensory seeker" who has trouble managing his energy levels, particularly at school. Its been nearly year since we started at SSP and we have already seen wonderful changes in our son. Cassie and Fiona have armed him with important tools that help him self-manage and self-correct throughout the day, establish positive relationships with his peers and build his self-esteem. The best part is that our son truly looks forward to the sessions each week -- clearly, they have created an environment where children feel safe and supported. In addition, it's been a huge gift to us to have other adults who know our child well who can also be advocates for our family (Fiona came and observed our son in his classroom last year and her feedback was very helpful to us as well as the teachers). We deeply respect and admire what Fiona and Cassie have put together at SSP and are so glad to be part of it!
Written by the parents of Clark, 6 years old
*Cassie and Fiona run an exceptional playgroup. In a short period of time, our child has demonstrated considerable social/emotional growth and maturation. Their weekly feedback is heart-warming and instructive, and provides an excellent tool for reinforcing the week's social curriculum. Their weekly guidance is practical, timely, and easily implementable at home. They have set clear goals for our child, and provide updates on his progress. Cassie and Fiona's guidance has been invaluable in helping us make decisions about appropriate school placement. Perhaps most importantly, they know our child well and he runs enthusiastically into playgroup each week.
Written by mother of Ethan, 5 years old
*I am so happy that we decided to put our son, Jonah, in the Sensory Social Playgroup. Just after the first class, Jonah came home and asked me throughout the next week (and at appropriate times) whether I was happy and sad. It is unbelievable to me that just after 2 hours with Cassie and Fiona our 4 year old would grasp the concept of empathy. In addition, the teachers at my son's preschool saw a significant change in his social behavior with his peers. Now when a classmate gets hurt, they say Jonah comes running across the room "like some ninja" to comfort the child in need. He initiates and engages in cooperative play and is so much more social with his peers. I have noticed the social change as well. Lately when I take Jonah to the park, he has become more interested in interacting with the other children there than just playing on the equipment. We have seen such a visible change in Jonah's behavior and we can not be more pleased with the results. We can not thank Fiona and Cassie enough for all of their hard work!
Written by mother of Jonah, 4 years old
*I am incredibly thankful for all that my daughter, Ellie, has learned from Cassie and Fiona at the SSP, as well as all the support and insight that they have given to me. Fiona and Cassie are insightful, experienced, extremely knowledgable, as well as warm and intuitive. They are clearly attuned to my daughter, and appear to be to all the kids in the group.
As background, my daughter was diagnosed with Speech Dyspraxia,gross and fine motor delays at a young age, and later social challenges and sensory processing/integration. This is Ellie’s second year with SSP, she started at 3 ½ as she entered preschool as was just beginning to really speak. Ellie immediately loved SSP. Cassie and Fiona helped us identify and understand her challenges, and gave insights, strategies, and tools to help both us and Ellie to identify what was needed and what strategy/tool would be helpful. The class itself gives positive reinforcement thru the structure of physical, sensory, and social communications. This has built her knowledge of herself, given her tools to use when needed, and a sense a confidence as well as taught her:
· Use a voice that is loud and clear so friends can understand her
· Be flexible so friends can play
· Understand social cues, look eye to eye.
· Try different activities
· Tune in and not get distracted
Communication, learning from, and working with Fiona and Cassie is incredibly easy, they make it easy and natural. After each class, an email is sent, with a tip of the day (strategy/tool) that is also used in class, a summary of activities for the day, along with photo’s and comments. I find it helpful in so many ways - love seeing and hearing what they are doing in class, my daughter loves to look at it and discuss it with me, and the tips are easy to pick up, share with others, and reinforce the therapies/strategies used in class – which is so beneficial to the kids (and others around them). I also forward these on to her preschool and other therapists – so language and tools are consistent. They have been an incredible support beyond that – whether in conferences, group meetings, in identifying concerns, tools, and resources – really as seems as much as you want with the right balance.
My daughter is now an articulate, social child. She has learned how to regulate herself better, be flexible with friends, make new friends, try different activities, and tune in with feelings of herself and others. I believe Cassie and Fiona have taught her and brought all this together for her, and am incredibly thankful. There is more to learn, so Ellie will continue, but I am just amazed at the progress she has made and how she has loved it! Ellie loves going to SSP – playing with the friends in class as well as Fiona and Cassie. I highly recommend this class – for kids with specific challenges it is necessary, but also feel that most kids could benefit greatly from the class. Life skills that are just so valuable – in confidence, socially, happiness, and developmentally in all areas. I am happy to discuss or answer any specific questions.
Written by mother of Ellie, 5 years old
*Our chid has been working with Cassie and Fiona in their playgroup for a little over two years. In that time we've seen remarkable changes. Our son went from a child who could only interact with adults into a boy who regularly plays with others. His empathy and willingness to follow the lead of other children has also increased markedly. Our work with Cassie and Fiona continues but we have been thrilled with the significant impact they have made in our son's life.
Written by father of Max, 6 years old
*We will very much miss you and Cassie - our beacons throughout the last few years on all things relating to Max and social interactions. Your insight, expertise and wisdom - not to mention your empathy and humor - have been a huge gift to our whole family and I have no doubt that the seeds planted in Max through your interactions over the past few years have made and will continue to make a real difference in how he learns to navigate the world around him.
Written by Max’s mother upon Max’s graduation from SSP
*Our son Kabir joined the Sensory Social Playgroups when he was three. It has proved invaluable. He has learnt to interact better with his friends, read social and emotional cues, and most of all, know himself. As a family, we have learnt specific language and numerous other tools that help all of us. e.g. we have learnt to recognize our engines - how they can run too fast or too slow or just right. Kabir will tell us if he is overwhelmed, "I need to calm down, and go to the calming corner." And our favorite ditty at home (sung to to the tune of Three Blind Mice) that reminds us that as much as possible, we should say Yes to each other, not No: "Just say yes. Just say yes. It makes you feel so good inside. It makes your friends' smiles shine. Just say yes." Any time a conflict arises between siblings, we have learnt in our family to say, "We all get to keep our idea." I could go on and on...One word that sums all that we as a family have learnt from Sensory Social Playgroups: Invaluable.
Written by father of Kabir, 6 years old
Dear Cassie and Fiona,
Our entire family is very grateful to you for all these years of guidance and coaching. Let alone Kabir and Meera, both Ken and I have learned a lot from you over the years - not only in a formal didactic way but also just by your presence in our lives. I know this is not goodbye since it is a small town and we will meet each other often. Nevertheless, Ken and I wanted to tell both of you how deeply grateful we are.
Thanks again for doing this great noble work
Written by father of Kabir upon Kabir’s graduation
Our seven year old son, Zander, who struggles with sensory processing and social issues, has been enrolled in Sensory Social Playgroups for the past two years- during the school year as well as in the summer. Our experience with Cassie and Fiona and their program, has been incredible.
Sensory Social Playgroups is a thoughtful, organized and professional program. Cassie and Fiona are warm, supportive, inclusive and uniquely tuned in to each of the children. As parents, we draw so much inspiration from them in how to approach, support and understand our child as we help him move through the world.
Zander looks forward to going to playgroup every week- he has said to us " I seem to do better in playgroup than anywhere else." And what I've noticed, more than anything, is that Zander is learning to know himself. Cassie and Fiona have helped him to be more aware of his body, his mind and how he interacts with others so that he can work to regulate himself when he feels "big feelings" coming. He has learned to become a better friend, a better "player" and more able to recover when he feels himself beginning to fall apart.
The strategies he has learned from SSP have helped him immensely in school + at home. I think though, what I appreciate the most, is what he has gained by having a safe place to go to where he is truly understood.
We truly believe that Zander's experience in school and life has been dramatically changed by his participation in this playgroup and highly recommend it to other parents considering the program. We are happy to offer additional feedback or to answer specific questions as necessary.
Meredith + Matt Ashworth, written by parents of Zander, 7 years old
Our daughter, Stella, was adopted from China at 16 months old. She was physically delayed at the time, but she caught up quickly with good nutrition and care. What we hadn't known or realized then was that she also had sensory problems and social delays. In our search to try and sort through all of the information out there on sensory social issues, it was suggested to us that we try Cassie and Fiona's sensory social playgroup for Stella. You may be feeling as we were at the time, very confused and overwhelmed about what to do first, who to go to for assessments and help. We had never heard of these kinds of issues prior to adopting Stella. After my first call to Fiona, it was clear to us that she understood everything I was describing to her about Stella and that the sensory social playgroup was a perfect, safe place for Stella to begin learning how to communicate better socially and how to begin gaining awareness of her emotional reactions to her peers and environment. Stella has been in Cassie and Fiona's playgroups for two years now and after each session she has taken a huge leap in growth both socially and in her sensory awareness. She has learned how to express her feelings verbally instead of reacting quickly to things and she has acquired many tools to help her communicate with her peers and have successful play time. Sending Stella to Cassie and Fiona's playgroup has truly been one of the most beneficial things we've done for her and our family.
Written by Debra & Darrell, parents of Stella, 7 years old
*Our son, Max, was diagnosed in February 2009 with high functioning autism, and began Floortime therapy soon thereafter. As part of his treatment, our therapist recommended that we enroll Max in Cassie and Fiona’s Sensory Social Playgroup program in order to develop Max’s ability to engage and interact with other children. Max began attending in the fall of 2009, and we quickly saw improvement in his ability to stay with activities and a heightened interest in other children. After each session, we receive an email with a summary of and photographs from the day’s session. Max loves to sit down at the computer with us and talk about the photographs and discuss the day’s themes. From our parent-teacher conferences and these weekly emails, it is quite apparent that Cassie and Fiona care very deeply about their work and the children entrusted to their care. While Max occasionally grumbles about going to his preschool or to therapy sessions with his other caregivers, he always looks forward to going to “Playgroup in the City”. Cassie and Fiona do a wonderful job teaching Max and his classmates how to relate to each other and how to make each other happy. They have provided us with excellent, practical strategies for drawing Max out and for positively reinforcing his behavior, as well as techniques for helping Max (and his parents) cope with his sensory challenges.
After his first day back at playgroup this past September, with a new group of children, Max remarked that he wanted to see one of his classmates from the previous semester - it was the first time that Max had ever expressed to us that he missed somebody. Max is currently in his third semester in SSP, and he has made such tremendous strides with his empathy, his language, and his ability to connect (and maintain that connection) to other people that he is literally a different child from when he began the SSP program. We wholeheartedly recommend Fiona and Cassie and the SSP program to any prospective parents, and we cannot thank Fiona and Cassie enough for all they have done for us and for our son.
Written by Annie and Peter Sherman, parents of Max, 4 years old
*Our 7 year old daughter has been in Cassie and Fiona's social playgroups for 2 1/2 years now, and she has grown so much from the experience. Most notably she has learned strategies to be more flexible and to increase her frustration tolerance. She also learned lots of tips and tricks to help her self-regulate better and to identify the difference between big and little problems and react accordingly. Coming to playgroup is by far her favorite activity of the week; she loves not only the other kids there but Cassie and Fiona as well. They have a magical way with all of the kids that makes my daughter want to make good choices and make them proud. Fiona and Cassie have also provided invaluable advice in the school selection process and in working through transition issues after school started. We have been more than delighted with our experience.
Written by mother of Hannah, 7 years old
*We decided to enroll our four-year-old daughter, Madeline, in the playgroup this past summer when we recognized that she could use some help in building social self-confidence. Madeline's language skills have been slower to develop as a result of hearing loss, and we felt that she needed some extra practice and encouragement to use language when playing with peers. The facilitated play has been so helpful to Madeline, as Cassie and Fiona have created such a safe and fun environment where Madeline feels comfortable taking risks. They really know how to work with children to bring out their best and do a great job of collaborating with parents to support identified goals. Most of all, Madeline loves the playgroup and is so animated at pick up time!
Written by mother of Madeline, 4 years old
*Our son has been going to Cassie's and Fiona’s playgroup regularly for four years. During that time, his former aversion to interacting with other children has evolved into a jump-up-and-down excitement to go play with the kids (and adults) in the group, and we’ve begun to see his interacting with kids outside the group in positive, outgoing ways that would have seemed like science fiction when he began. The nurturing, highly engaged and carefully structured activities and play space are all very well designed and carried out to help encourage, normalize, and self-regulate sensory-challenged children, leading them into considerate, balanced, happy, and genuinely engaged play with each other. Additionally, Cassie and Fiona are cheerily engaged with us and have given us their expertise and support above and beyond the weekly sessions. We wouldn’t keep enrolling him if we didn’t feel like the Sensory Social Playgroup is the best group of its kind we can find.
Written by mother and father of Alex, 7 years old
*We're all going to miss the experience, insights, and fun. We began having the conversations with Alex about the change, and he was very upset, saying "I love Cassie and Fiona most of all." Alex has gained so much from his experiences in your groups and from his interactions with you both, as have we. He was truly distraught when we told him he'd be graduating, protested, and expressed how much he loves you. The SSP remains the one place that Alex genuinely wants to go play with kids, and that and his plaintive confession are among the things that made this week such a struggle for us. We will miss you guys a lot for your counsel, great care for Alex, and your warmth with us.
Written by mother and father of Alex upon Alex’s graduation from SSP
*Our four year old son Josh always seemed to be a bit of a loner at his preschool. He never quite connected with a buddy the way that most of his peers did. While his classmates milled about together during play time, he preferred to occupy himself with solitary activities like playing with puzzles, reading books, and building blocks. We gradually became aware of Josh's challenges with his social skills and realized that he would need help in learning something that comes naturally to most kids: playing with others.
We have just enrolled Josh in his first semester with the Social Sensory Playgroup and have begun to see him become more engaged with the other kids at school. The sessions have started to teach Josh the skills of how to initiate conversation, how to read social cues, and to be flexible in his thinking and actions. He has also begun to learn to navigate through the more complex social situations that arise when not just one, but two or three of his peers are involved in an activity.
As parents, we look forward to seeing the weekly emails that Fiona and Cassie send out with photos from the sessions. They show the kids involved in various activities ("Josh and Stella at the sensory table"). These photos are accompanied by a summary of the lessons covered that day which help us reinforce those ideas throughout the week. We are hopeful that Josh continues to learn and grow from the things he learns so he can continue to have successful relationships with other kids.
Written by parents of Joshua, 4 years old
*When our son entered preschool, we noticed that despite his advanced cognitive and verbal ability for a 3 year old, he seemed very uncomfortable in the social preschool setting compared to his peers. We watched and waited for a year, but we did not see him develop into a skilled "player" with his peers. He often did not seem comfortable joining in group play and participating in the natural give-and-take of social interactions, even though he had one best friend. We came to appreciate that his sensitive nature and the way his body received sensory inputs were part of his unique challenge. As a result, we started occupational therapy when he was 4. Still, as parents, we and his teachers were struggling with how to teach him to make positive social choices. Our son started the playgroup with Cassie and Fiona during the summer he turned 5, after we had also tried some social coaching in the classroom. Our only regret is that we didn't find the play group sooner! We are tremendously grateful to Cassie and Fiona for creating a safe, fun, positive child-centered space. In a group of active boys, our son has been able to play and physically express himself while also practicing self-regulation. With their support, coaching, and direct social instruction via puppet shows and immediate, non-threatening feedback, our son learned foundational social skills. He has experienced the pleasure of making friends and the skill of sticking with them to solve a problem. We have seen a big decrease in his negativity and a big increase in his ability to articulate his feelings in words rather than act out in attention-seeking ways. At school, he has come to be regarded as a funny and fun leader, in contrast to his impulsive and often sullen disposition of his earlier years.
As parents, we love the weekly emails after each play group, with pictures and a summary "tip" of the day. The detailed communication to parents allows us to bring many of the strategies for encouraging pro-social behavior home. Most of all, our son loves to go to play group. We feel confident that he is both physically and emotionally safe there.
Written by mother of Taylor, 5 years old
*Our son has been going to Cassie and Fiona’s playgroup for the past 1 1/2 years. He was a very large, energetic and verbal 4 year old, and he had trouble controlling himself, especially physically, when interacting with other children. He has made tremendous progress in his time with Cassie and Fiona, and now has good control of his physical interactions with his peers, and he is making progress in developing a good sense of empathy and understanding of other people’s emotions. The tools for self-management that he has learned with Cassie and Fiona are proving very helpful to him as he makes his way through his first year of kindergarten, and we feel that these tools will continue to be important to him long after he moves on from playgroup.
Written by father of Connor, 5 years old