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As part of our ongoing Spotlight on Special Education, meet Diane Van Driessen, Behavior Specialist for PPS and Sara Leta, social worker (Littlebrook and Riverside) and preschool Child Study Team.

Can you tell us about your jobs?

Diane: This is my tenth year working in the PPS district.  I started in 2012 in the role of speech and language pathologist at Riverside School and worked primarily with students in the Autism Program.  A few years later, I transitioned into the position of Behavior Specialist and work with students throughout the district.  In my role as a BCBA, I provide consultation to staff, trainings on managing challenging behavior and most importantly work with students by completing functional behavior assessments, developing behavior intervention plans, monitoring those plans and student consultation.   

Sarah: This is also my tenth year working in the PPS district.  I served in three of my roles since starting at Princeton. In my role as a social worker, I work with other child study team members to evaluate students for special education services.  I also provide social skills to classrooms and individuals student while working to link families to community as needed.  In addition, I  have provided a number of workshops focusing on executive functioning and trauma. 

Have you been involved in a girls group at Riverside designed for multiple disability and autism students?

Diane: Yes! This school year, Sara  and I wanted to create an integrated social skills group to give our girl students the opportunity to interact and complete activities designed especially for young girls.     

Can you tell us more about the girls group?

The "Girls Group" consists of learners with language impairment that impact social interactions and is scheduled weekly. These learners are currently paired with a typical peer.  The group currently consists of 5 young ladies.  Group activities have included individual performance, crafts (making tissue flowers, jewelry, spinners), group projects and board games (Uno, Chutes and Ladders). A theme is developed for each weekly lesson focused on increasing engagement and interactions with peers and providing opportunities to complete activities designed students their age. The weekly group focuses on the following skills: 

  • Greetings 
  • Eye Contact 
  • Commenting 
  • Sharing 
  • Conversation 

Is there anything particularly satisfying that you would like to share with parents?  

When we see one of our students take the skills we are working on in groups, such as the girl's group, and then use them to interact with others outside that is always satisfying and our main goal. 

If you could change one thing what would it be?

This year, it has been difficult to schedule regular meetings due to students being exposed to Covid and a number of absences.  We look forward to holding the group next year with less interruptions. 

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