Practicum Opportunity Facilitating Social Skills Playgroups for Children in the Autism Spectrum

Date posted: 
Sunday, March 27, 2016 - 10:30 to Monday, March 27, 2017 - 10:30
Employer Name: 
Francisco Rocco, Ph.D.
1426 Fillmore Street, Suite 317 - San Francisco, CA 94115
Contact Person: 
Francisco Rocco
Applicable Field of Study: 
Communication Disorders, Special Needs, Education, Child Development, Psychology
Who should apply: 
Graduate Students with Interest / Experience in Child Development and Special Needs
12 months

I am a licensed clinical psychologist with a broad specialty in child development and a focus on autism spectrum disorders. I currently facilitate 4 social skills playgroups for children with developmental vulnerabilities on Saturdays and 3 on Wednesdays, from 4:30 pm to 7:30 pm. The practicum students currently supporting our programs on Wednesdays will be completing their commitment in May and I am searching for a new cohort of two students for those positions. Below is a description of the program. Students will gain hands on experience in social facilitation for children with developmental differences. Experience working with preschoolers and special needs children is a plus.

Peer Play – Socialization Training Play Group

Brief Description

Our program integrates cutting edge therapeutic interventions with a creative and participatory group experience. Normally developing children are included to model adaptive social behaviors. The program is designed to address the areas of vulnerability associated with Autism. In addition to communication, socialization, community/domestic, and sensory/motor areas there is a strong behavior management component designed to address the rigidity and non-compliance challenges frequently associated with developmental disorders.

Areas of Intervention

Communication: Children are consistently coached and supported in the appropriate and effective use of language to express wishes, share feelings, negotiate activities, and solve problems. Language expectations are tailored to the developmental level of each individual. For children with emerging language skills the goal is to increase the use of words for practical and instrumental purposes. There is also a focus on foundational components of communication such as sequencing, turn taking, attending, and eye contact. For those with more advanced verbal ability the emphasis is on pragmatic skills and non-verbal communication to convey and interpret meaning. Children have opportunities to practice these skills during circle time, show-and-tell, group decision-making, and team activities. Being familiar with the needs of each participant, our staff labels, models, and reinforces these behaviors when appropriate.
Living Skills: Our use of symbolic and representational play offers frequent opportunities to practice daily living and community skills such as table manners, following rules, attending to safety, using public facilities, keeping time, hygiene, cooperation and team-work. Children are coached to practice these behaviors during pretend play, snack time, washing hands, and clean up.
Socialization: The safe and containing environment allows socially anxious children to relax and enjoy the company of peers. Children quickly develop close bonds with other participants and learn how to make and sustain friendships. Neuro-typical children model age appropriate play and socialization behaviors. We facilitate abundant peer-to-peer interactions and, when necessary, we provide support in reading and interpreting social cues and responding appropriately. Children are challenged to initiate interactions, engage in social problem solving and develop effective coping strategies. Some participants maintain friendships outside of the group meetings.
Sensory-Motor Skills: We hold our meetings at an occupational therapy gym. The equipment and layout of the facilities are ideal for safely exploring a sensory environment and practicing fine and gross motor skills. Our staff occupational therapist plans creative and enjoyable OT activities that support those who benefit from a specific diet of proprioceptive, vestibular, or sensory input to feel grounded and organized. The goal is to help children remain within an ideal level of arousal that facilitate social engagement and meaningful participation.
Behavior Management: At the group level, we use contingent reinforcement, abundant praise of appropriate behavior, clear rules, and firm limit setting to establish a consistent and predictable experience that fosters civil behavior, cooperation, and respect. At the individual level, we work with the parents to identify maladaptive behaviors and we use the group format and, when appropriate, peer pressure to help participants overcome their rigidity.


Our multidisciplinary model brings together the experience and talent of a team of developmental specialists from psychology and occupational therapy. Dr. Rocco and Jazmin Elek, OTR/L currently work at the Multidisciplinary Assessment Clinic at UCSF / SFGH and both have a long history of working in multidisciplinary environments. An integrative perspective is ideal when treating neurological conditions that impact the social/emotional, cognitive, motor, language, and sensory systems.

Francisco Rocco, Ph.D.

Dr. Rocco is a licensed clinical psychologist. He holds a combined doctoral degree in child clinical psychology and school psychology from the University of California in Santa Barbara. Dr. Rocco specializes in assessment, diagnosis and treatment of developmental disorders. He was trained in parent-infant attachment and neurodevelopmental disabilities at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. He also worked at UCLA providing services to young children adopted from foster care. Dr. Rocco currently holds the position of Senior Psychologist at the Department of Pediatrics — UCSF / San Francisco General Hospital. He also has a private practice in San Francisco specializing in early childhood mental health and developmental vulnerabilities. More info @

Jazmin Elek OTR/L

Jazmin is an occupational therapist who specializes in the area of pediatrics. For the past 10 years she has worked with a diverse population of children between the ages of 0 to 17 years. She is passionate about her work and diverse in her method. Over the course of her career, she has taken advanced courses in Sensory Integration, hand development, and Neuro Developmental Treatment. Jazmin currently serves on a multidisciplinary team in the Pediatrics Department at UCSF – San Francisco General Hospital campus. She also has a private practice in San Francisco. She is culturally sensitive and has worked and studied in many countries, including China, India, Mexico, Peru and Guatemala. More info @


Small groups of 4 – 5 children with special needs are matched in play pods, and normally developing children are recruited as play mentors. Group sessions are 50 minutes long. There is a strong emphasis on group process, sharing, and inclusion. However, children will be allowed latitude to choose activities and encouraged to contribute to their own experience. Parents have the opportunity to discuss their child’s progress and areas of need with Dr. Rocco at the end of every session.


Meetings will be held at a fully equipped occupational therapy gym situated at 1426 Fillmore St. Suite 317 – San Francisco, CA 94115

Skills & Abilities: 
Experience working with young children with special needs is a plus
Job Poster: 
Francisco Rocco, PhD
Job Poster's E-mail: 
Masters Degree Required: