Back To School Part 1- Making New Friends

imageThe theme of this past week at the office was of course BACK TO SCHOOL! Between focusing on the positives of going back to school to breathing and relaxing practice to help with anxiety to tips to staying organized and making friends, we covered the gamut. I’m feeling compelled to highlight a few thoughts though to review with your socially challenged child this weekend as we begin a new school year. I’ll post some organization tips and anxiety-reducing tips later in the week as well.

1. Watch and learn. See what others are and aren’t doing.
2. It’s better to be quiet and observe then to go in trying too hard.
3. Sometimes it is important to try to fit in. Don’t sacrifice who you are and what your values are, but also don’t go out of your way to be too different or too out there.
4. Look for the others who have more in common with you. Don’t shoot for the all that crowd – they often are not the most welcoming or inclusive. Find that one child who also is sitting alone or looking unsure. See who else likes Pokemon or Minecraft. Hang out with the smart, quiet kid.
5. Say hi to that person in #4. Don’t wait for them to say hi first.
6. DON’T DO ALL THE TALKING! This is a biggie! Others will get bored and turned off right away. Ask questions instead, then follow through with follow-up comments. Everyone loves to talk about themselves. Get people talking. Fake it that you are interested even if you are not. Build common ground. Good conversation starters include: What do you like to do? Have you been watching the Olympics? Who do you like? What events did you like? What video games/you tubers/ etc do you like the best? What did you do this summer? Where did you go on vacation? What movies did you see? Then build on the answers. (Parents, this is a good one to practice with your child. Have pretend conversations.)
7. Remind all your children to be accepting. To notice those who look like they need a friend. To say hi and talk to the quiet or awkward child. To invite others to join you and your friends at lunch. If every typical child did this for one other child, think of the difference it would make!

Review. Practice. Role play. All good things to help all of our children begin with a fresh start this year! Hope this helps a little! Now enjoy the rest of this weekend, it’s still summer, especially in Florida!


Riley, the therapy dog

imageWe are thrilled to introduce you to our very newest and probably most-loved member at Family Learning Solutions! Riley joined us here in the fall of 2015.  Riley is a whoodle – a wheaten terrier/poodle blend and is 4 years old.  He does not shed and is hypoallergenic. Riley worked hard to be here and has completed 3 sets of obedience classes at The Humane Society of Polk County in Winter Haven under Diann Andress.  He passed his AKC Good Citizens Canine Test last fall and passed all but one portion of his therapy dog test in December.  He has been practicing and is retaking his exam in the next two weeks.  His one failure was that he loves other dogs and just could not settle down when he saw another one! Riley is extremely good-natured and has proven to be a valuable asset at the office for both our young clients and our older ones.  Riley loves to cuddle and soothe the anxious or the distressed.  He is also more than happy though to play and entertain the active.  And he provides a great opportunity to socialize, to calm down, and to interact with on whatever basis he is needed.  He has helped more than one person get over their fear of dogs as well. Ms. Donna has gotten used to Riley getting the welcomes and the one everyone now comes to see.  And Riley loves coming to work and seeing all his new friends! Riley is famous too – check out his Ledger article and come meet him!



We currently do not have any Sibshops scheduled but if you are interested, please call our office and we will add you to our wait list. We hope to offer more of these in the future. The bigger our list gets, the more likely we are to do so! 


Be A Friend: Songs For Social Skills Training


Favorite new CD to use at school, in groups, or at home- Be A Friend: Songs for Social Skills Training by Jed Baker and Jeffrey Friedberg. Great tunes and concepts, easily adaptable to gestures, and catchy words and tunes. I walk around all day singing “Eye contact, eye contact, that’s what you do” or “Personal space, personal space, we all need our personal space.” I ordered it at Future Horizons . They also have a website for free activity sheets and downloads – Be A Friend. Great buy for a low price!


Christmas Ideas

It’s that time again of year again, where we are all making our lists and checking them twice. I’d like to make some recommendations on toys/games that can help your child develop higher level thinking skills, increase auditory and verbal processing skills, expand attention, improve attention, improve interaction, and improve academics. Not every game does all of these, but many of them help in several of these areas.

Games: Qwerkle, What Am I?, Guess Who, Pictureka, Secret Square, Blink, Hyperdash, Hullabaloo, Bop It, Simon, Uno Stacko, Battleship, Checkers/Chess (teach the strategy you are using), Connect 4, Charades for Kids, Cranium, Cadoo

Toys: Puzzles, Playdough, Mazes, Marble tracks (building toy), Puppets, Bubbles, Beanbags, Velcro paddles and ball catch, Zoom Ball, Coloring books

Also look at for some great workbooks for thinking skills.

You will notice that I didn’t include video games or computer games on here. The only ones I’d recommend are the Wii Sports games that include movement and interaction. Too many children are glued into their electronics to the determent of interacting with others. If your child has any social difficulties especially, go for the more interactive games and toys to provide opportunities to interact. That is how they will improve and learn!

This list is by no means exclusive, butthese are all things that will promote thinking, interaction, and processing. Email me if you have questions on anything.

Happy shopping!


Grateful for the Simple Things

Most of us spend time beating ourselves up over the things we do wrong with our children, or not spending enough time with them, or being patient with them, or…the list goes on and on. But in this month of Thanksgiving, recognize and be grateful for the simple things you do everyday and don’t even realize. Being there every day, providing a routine, having food on the table and a roof overhead, teaching manners, being consistent, following through, having high expectations, being your child’s advocate, giving hugs and kisses, loving unconditionally, and most of all just being someone your children can count on day after day. Too many children are not lucky enough to have this. It’s these simple things, that take us so much time but we do without even thinking,- because after all isn’t that what parents do -that are the most important. So today, give thanks for yourself and the job you are doing, because the simple things are the important things! And at the end of a tough day, those are the words of gratitude you can say- today I gave my child the simple things! Happy Thanksgiving! I celebrate all those great parents out there, that I see day after day, doing the simple things!


Social Thinking- My New Favorite ASD Book


Periodically we will be sharing some of the books referenced and recommended the most by us. The Social Thinking Curriculum by Michelle Garcia and Stephanie Madrigal is one of those books. This series of books comes from their site Social Thinking. The authors break down the behaviors that are an obstacle to friendships and social skills into The Unthinkables. These are villainous characters presented in a cartoon form who cause the behaviors most commonly seen in those with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Superflex is the hero who comes to the rescue with flexible ideas to use to prevent the Unthinkables from taking over. Children learn to be whole body listeners, what is expected and unexpected behavior with others, how to be a social detective, and how to be a social thinker. Children love it and can relate to it. It is user friendly and a great cueing system to use with your child in identifying particular quirky behaviors and strategies to defeat those behaviors. We tend to somewhat Rock Brain on this ourselves as we are seeing many of our children at FLS benefit from the lessons and applications of Social Thinking. Check it and related books out on Amazon at