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For people with Down syndrome, family members, caregivers and professionals.

Tips for Running Virtual Social Groups

November 2020 | Katie Frank, PhD, OTR/L - Occupational Therapist, Adult Down Syndrome Center

Since April, staff at the Adult Down Syndrome Center have been hosting online socials and social skills groups via Zoom. Our goal is to encourage social participation and engagement while we maintain physical distance due to COVID-19. People throughout the country have contacted us with interest in the programs we offer. Here are some strategies to help you get online groups established a little closer to home. 

  • Choose a video platform.
    • Examples include Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Duo, etc. Many platforms have a free version; however, purchase may be necessary to access all features of the platform. 
  • Establish group rules.
    • Group rules help set expectations, ensure everyone has an opportunity to participate, and prevent fatigue from excessive background or ambient noise. 
    • The document at this link contains the group rules we use. 
  • Teach the participants how to use the video platform.
    • For example, it is important to know how to mute and unmute the microphone, start and stop the video, view all the participants, and leave the meeting. The handout at this link discusses how to use Zoom.
  • Pick a topic.
    • For general social groups, consider doing a show and tell, hosting a dance party, or playing games. Participants in our group enjoyed doing an alphabet show and tell. We assigned a letter for each week. Participants were encouraged to bring and share an item that started with the letter for that week.
    • To work on a social skill, consider topics such as conversation skills, phone and internet safety, managing emotions, social etiquette, or dating skills.
      • Many people with Down syndrome are strong visual learners. We find that it is helpful to create a PowerPoint with visual and written information on the topic. We also share videos and then discuss them. Many platforms allow presenters to share their screen so all participants can see the PowerPoint and/or videos.
  • Explore additional functions of the video platform.
    • For example, Zoom allows participants to share reactions using emojis and show that their hand is raised using a button. Hosts can also poll the audience, spotlight the video of a particular participant, and use breakout rooms for larger groups. 
  • If possible, limit the number of participants so that the group can be easily managed. 
    • For social groups, try to limit to 15 or less.
    • For social skills groups, limit to 6-8 participants. 
  • Have a co-host who can help manage meeting functions as needed.
  • Be flexible and open to change.
    • Our virtual groups have changed since we started offering them at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have learned what works for our participants and us. We have integrated new features that have been released by Zoom. In addition, we have focused on different topics based on feedback and experience. 

Screenshot of ADSC Online Social

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Please note: The information on this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to serve as a substitute for a medical, psychiatric, mental health, or behavioral evaluation, diagnosis, or treatment plan by a qualified professional. We recommend you review the educational material with your health providers regarding the specifics of your health care needs.