Terri Rossman believes all children want to develop lasting, meaningful social relationships with their peers. Some kids just need help learning the right skills in order to make friends and succeed in everyday interactions.
With that idea in mind, in 1989 Terri, a certified speech-language pathologist, founded Princeton Speech-Language & Learning Center (PSLLC) out of her Princeton home. She has since built PSLLC into one of the region’s leading providers of services for individuals with speech, language, academic, and social communication difficulties.
In October, 2014, PSLLC launched a groundbreaking new program called Social Village to help children grow socially and connect with like-minded peers. The center underwent a 2,300-square-foot expansion to create a comfortable space where kids ages 8 to 23 can meet to socialize, relax, and have fun —all without the pressure of being judged or bullied.
Social Village was born from Terri’s concern that children with social challenges often have no place to interact with others outside of school. Social Village offers a warm and welcoming social community, with numerous clubs, activities and special events — all under the supervision of trained social coaches.
Social Village’s executive director and owner, Terri, works with director Brendan Cartlidge and a team of trained college-aged students to help coach the kids in social communication skills so they can relax and engage with peers. Executive function skills are also addressed including the use of emotional regulation, completing tasks, and organizing themselves to use time properly.
Terri said in the short time they have been open, she has received feedback such as “I’ve never had a best friend, but now I do,” and “I found another friend who really gets me.” Terri adds: “It has been phenomenal.”
They currently have children who show up on a regular basis. They are divided into a younger side, with students ages 8 to 14, and teens ages 15 to 23. They have room for up to 40 children.
Currently events take place on weekends. They hope to expand the program to meet more often. Teens kick off the weekend with Friday Night Out, which might include pizza, music, movies, and board games. Saturday night is Man Cave Club, where the boys learn how to talk about sports, build things, play poker, and do handyman projects — in other words “be able to fit in a little bit more comfortably” around other boys. Each week has a different theme. On Sundays they meet from 1 to 5 p.m. for clubs, such as LEGO, Pokemon, Fantasy Book Club, and Minecraft.
Social Village charges an hourly rate of $25 per house for drop-in sessions. That rate is reduced to $20 an hour if you register in advance online. For every 10 hours, children receive one hour free.
The recipient of many Awards for Continuing Education from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, Terri is regularly consulted by other professionals and school districts working with children with social challenges. She holds degrees from Ithaca College and Boston University.
Princeton Speech-Language & Learning Center, 19 Wall Street, Princeton. 609-924-7080, www.psllcnj.com.