History of Spotlight

Spotlight was born out of the need for a place for youth to work on social skills in an environment that acknowledged and celebrated both visible and invisible skills. This is a population that did not necessarily respond to traditional methods of social pragmatic intervention due to motivational differences and differences in ability.

As such, in 2004 Spotlight founders Dr. Matthew D. Lerner, Ph.D. and Dr. Karen Levine, Ph.D. worked to create a program that could meet the needs of this population by teaching social pragmatics, social cueing, and relationship development while still being motivating and affectively engaging.

What emerged from this effort was the Spotlight Program, which integrates techniques of theater games and dramatic training with highly motivating and age-appropriate activities as well as a positive, social reinforcement-based environment to foster skill development in core deficit areas.

During Spotlight’s first summer program in 2004, nine participants arrived who had not experienced great success with other social skills programs. Following the overwhelmingly positive response from their families, as well as school-reported gains, the Northeast Arc was implored to expand the program offerings to include year-round groups.  Spotlight also gradually broadened its reach, introducing groups for both younger and older participants with a variety of social-emotional challenges with the creation of the On Cue and Next Stage programs.

Since its inception, Spotlight has grown to serve hundreds of families throughout the course of a year. The program continues to evolve to serve the needs of its families as well as local school districts by forming successful partnerships which allow the program to bring its unique model into schools as well as creating groups to meet the needs of its participants.