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Cracking the code of relationships

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The Secret Agent Society program uses games to teach children about relationships and interaction. And it works, with the program winning the prestigious CRC Association Awards for Excellence in Innovation for its positive impact on children's lives across the world.

Autism CRC's Secret Agent Society (SAS) program uses an evidence-based approach to help children address social and emotional challenges.

Distributed by the Social Skills Training Institute, the program helps children aged 8–12 with social and emotional challenges to 'crack the code' of emotions and friendships, using evidence-based animated ‘secret agent’ computer games, 'helpful thought missile' action games, bully guard body armour, Challenger board game and other resources.

"It's wonderful to see our Secret Agent Society program recognised for its positive impact on children's lives. Originally designed for children on the autism spectrum, the Secret Agent Society program is now also used to help children with a range of diagnoses or just to manage general challenges in a social context, such as bullying. The program has already helped more than 15,000 children across all states of Australia (including metropolitan, regional and remote locations) as well as nine countries internationally," said Prof Rob van Barneveld, Autism CRC Chair. 

"The success of our program is made possible by our international network of more than 1500 trained providers who span numerous disciplines, including health, disability and education in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors," said Kathleen Davey, Clinical Psychologist and Principal Consultant for Autism CRC's Social Skills Training Institute.

Joanne Tisdell, Principal of Aspect South East Sydney School (an independent school for children on the autism spectrum), has seen the effect the program can have on children and their families first hand.

“Families across our school who have participated in Secret Agent Society are testaments alone to the program. To see a family who has participated in so many programs on the market and finally commence their journey with Secret Agent Society is unlike any other experience.

"The empowerment and genuine belief they can finally make a difference in their child’s life is remarkable. Secret Agent Society has united families and allowed families to be the best they can be,” Tisdell said. 

Jennifer Kemp, General Manager Client Services of Lifestart Co-Operative discusses their experience with the Secret Agent Society Program.

"We’ve been delivering the Secret Agent Society program to children throughout New South Wales since 2015 and have been very well supported by the Social Skills Training team through ongoing, customised training and resource support," Kemp said. 

"Lifestart’s experience with the Secret Agent Society program has not only been positive and enjoyable but has also delivered real, measurable outcomes for our organisation, Lifestart’s individual facilitators and most importantly, for the children and families we support. Comments from some of our families trained in the Secret Agent Society program include:

“The SAS program has helped my son to identify his and others’ emotions and given him some strategies to help him through his school and life journey. I have noticed that Tom* has been more willing to discuss his emotions with me and this has allowed our father son relationship to only strengthen.”

“When my son said to me, ‘Mum, I can see that you’re angry’ then I knew we were on a winner,” she said.

A whole of class version of the program will be developed and trialed.

"We have worked closely with program author Dr Renae Beaumont, educators and other school staff to develop a 'whole-of-class' version of the program, consistent with the social-emotion skills elements of the Australian Curriculum, for delivery to all Year 5 students in mainstream schools.

"A two-year trial program was delivered successfully in 2016 and 2017 in 17 schools, and the learnings are now being integrated into the training and program resources that will soon become available for widespread use across Australian schools, increasing Secret Agent Society's reach and impact.

"We are also adapting the program for families who live in remote areas so that it can be used with their children at home under the guidance of a trained facilitator using online telehealth facilities," Davey said.

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