Self Management Skills Class (SMS)

In spring of 1983, Downers Grove Township launched a unique program for adolescents who were having encounters with local law enforcement and the judicial system.  That program, Self Management Skills, continues today, seeking to provide the opportunity for youth to gain some competency skills and be accountable for the decision that got them into trouble.

While many things have changed over the years in the world around us, the developmental process remains the same.  Adolescents must master certain tasks on their way to adulthood.  A number of factors impact this development: family rules, media messages and personality to name a few.  We have learned many things about human development that are particularly interesting when it comes to the adolescent.  Our knowledge about brain development and social and emotional intelligence has burgeoned over the past decade and this information has been utilized to maximize the information and skills taught in the Self Management Skills (SMS) program.

Self Management Skills sees students typically referred by the local court (Field Court), police departments or peer jury. Less frequently, the county probation department or a parent who has heard about the program from someone else might refer students.  Students are sent for various offenses that include: retail theft, consumption of alcohol, disorderly conduct, criminal trespass, criminal damage to property, etc.  Once referred to the program, the student must complete six hours of classroom instruction over a 3 or 4 session program (summer time the class is completed in 3 sessions and during the school year it is completed in 4 sessions).

The first session is an orientation to the program that includes the parent.   At that time, the parent is given basic information on adolescent brain development and the concept of social and emotional intelligence is introduced to them.  Students then look at a decision making model that is built on throughout the other sessions.  This is a key foundational component to the class that then allows the instructor to further build on it and introduce the concept of analyzing costs vs. benefits.

The 2nd and 3rd sessions are designed to help the students more realistically examine the true benefits vs. costs of their decisions.  They further examine the duration of those costs and benefits, coming to the realization that the costs far outweigh benefits.  After this examination, the students view excerpts from a film that shows the realities of prison life, writing a reflective paper about the film with a discussion at the next session.

The fourth session focuses on helping students make connections between decisions and their life goals.   Students are guided through one of several possible activities that help them make the connection between their decisions and the direction they will take them.  The premise is to help students discover that they themselves are in control of their decisions and there are some choices they make that actually create obstacles or handicap them, effectively getting in the way of accomplishing some of their goals.  Because adolescents don’t often think about long-term goals or consequences, students can make the connection here between decisions they make now and what could possibly happen to their future aspirations.

At the conclusion of every class, students anonymously evaluate the program and its’ usefulness.  Most students, based on the feedback given, seem to grasp the primary concepts of the class and say that it is useful to them.  Students that are sent by peer jury have reported at their release hearings that the class is very useful and they will use the skills in the future.  Ultimately, this class is a part of an adolescents’ developmental process.  We want them to be accountable for their decision, examine that decision and learn some valuable information and skills along the way.  During its’ long history, we have provided this resource for the community and are proud to do so.

Lori Wrzesinski
Public Relations Director
Phone: (630) 719-6689



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June 2017
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