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!


Social Apps


Social Apps for ADHD

Use summertime to bolster up weaker areas .  These apps can fill in some of those social needs your child may have and it’s a fun way to do so! Without daily interaction with peers, many children slide in their social skills during the summer.   Let us know what you think of the different apps. Family Learning Solutions will be be trying some of these out and we will let you know what we like!

Remember too, we offer social skills groups all summer for every age.  Lots of fun and good learning as well! 



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! 


Video Games

For children with social difficulties, whether it be Autism, Asperger’s, ADHD, Gifted, and so on, there are some ways that parents can help improve social skills. This applies to any child, typical or not actually.  Children and adolescents that have trouble forming friendships often retreat into a world of video games, computer games, and television as this is a safe, predictable world that they can control. Interaction with others however is important. Parents need to keep their child involved in activities, social skill groups, the family and the community,  and not allow all his/her time outside of school to be electronic or alone. Social skills continue to develop through use and experience. Violent video games, movies, and television shows need to be avoided and/or limited. Exposure to these desensitizes children, and an overuse of them can blur the lines between reality and fantasy. Instead of learning healthy coping skills to handle anger, bullying, and stress, children believe that the methods they see in games are the way to handle problems.

Speak frequently with your child about the fantasy element of game playing, and about how to handle anger and frustration. Discuss problems they have and strategies they can use to manage them.  Teach and model coping skills- such as walking away, cooling off, thinking through what to say, and speaking respectfully with other people.  Provide a plan to handle anger, focusing on positive thoughts, and being responsible for your own actions. Role playing can be useful in practicing methods of handling stress and/or bullying.


In Defense of Asperger’s Syndrome

As a mental health counselor and a former teacher, I feel compelled to comment on last month’s tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary for many reasons. I work with many children/adolescents with Asperger’s Syndrome. I also have a brother with Asperger’s Syndrome and have been around individuals with this all my life. The recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, the news reports that the shooter had a “personality disorder,” and then the subsequent reporting that he had Asperger’s Syndrome have given Asperger’s Syndrome a bad rap. Asperger’s Syndrome is NOT a personality disorder. It is a developmental disability that impacts social and communication skills. It is not a mental illness and it does not preclude violent tendencies. I am willing to bet we will find that Adam Lanza had a co-occurring disorder that contributed to his violent actions. While people with Asperger’s Syndrome are generally highly intelligent people with a quirky style of interacting and sensory issues that make social skills a challenge, they also tend to be sweet, funny, and fascinating. They are honest to a fault, set in their ways, and very concrete and literal. The many individuals I know with Asperger’s enrich and brighten my life daily. They often have a lot they can teach us too!


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!