We had the good fortune of connecting with Diana Cortese and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Diana, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
I created South Bay Kids Connection (SBKC) to address the need for a dedicated and welcoming space where kids could develop, practice and strengthen positive peer relationships.
Something all parents have in common is that they want the best for their children. That best can mean different things to different families but at its core it almost always entails that child being happy, confident and a good person.
Having worked with kids across all ages and developmental levels as a Special Education Teacher and Board Certified Behavior Analyst, I realized that the key to achieving these desired outcomes was to build healthy, positive peer social interactions. As a parent, raising young boys, I also appreciated that growing up in today’s world can be serious business. I was disheartened to witness how a culture of competitiveness seemed to increase in tandem with age. This makes developing healthy social skills even more challenging- especially for those that have additional needs.
Contrary to popular belief, although we humans are social creatures, social skills do not just magically develop. They are skills like any other that need to be taught, shaped and reinforced. They are also difficult to teach because they are nuanced and context dependent.
In my line of work, I noticed that once children got to elementary school, there was almost no time allotted to teach kids how to play at recess, how to problem solve with peers, how to self regulate. These kids then went on to middle and high school, still lacking those fundamental skills.
So I set out to create a space where kids could work on these skills. SBKC holds weekly social and play skills groups that are activity based and aim to increase children’s self-esteem, self-awareness and social-awareness skills. The effects of our little groups have broader and longer lasting positive benefits as these young learners today are the engaged community members and compassionate leaders of tomorrow.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
South Bay Kids Connection specializes in social & play skills groups for children 5-12 years old.
Our younger group called the “Explorers” is a 90 minute play-based group in which kids learn to be flexible in their play by learning skills such as: dealing with rule changes, allowing others to choose activities, and initiating and reciprocating play with peers. Our older group called the “Adventurers” is a 60 minute group that focuses on social-awareness, self-awareness and team building. We role play scenarios relevant to their social lives, engage in group discussions and of course, play games.
Our social and play skills groups are unique in that we fill the void for the children who do not require individual help in developing social skills but thrive from a smaller group to gain confidence and practice skills that enable them to connect to their peers in a healthy and fun way.
I’m most proud that many of the kids in group stay in the group year after year. It’s a joy getting to be part of their growth over time.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
The best place to visit in the South Bay is out in nature. Aside from the many beaches, I would definitely hit many trails in Palos Verdes for awesome hiking with spectacular views. Places indoors to keep our kids healthy and active are Urban Youth Park in Palos Verdes for some parkour and if on the younger side, to Adventure Plex in Manhattan Beach. I love being able to take the family including our doggy out to eat at Lazy Dog in Torrance. Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My shoutout goes to all the parents of the kids I get to be with every week. It’s their investment in and prioritization of these critical social skills that make the program work. If the skills we work on in group were not supported and reinforced at home, it simply would not work.
Photos take by me (Diana Cortese)