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! 


Behavior And IEP’s

Check out this article from The Special Ed Advocate newsletter. There are more articles as well on IEPs and behavior problems.


Summer Camp Info

CARD at UCF is offering the following summer camps. Several are based on Michelle Garcia’s Social Thinking curriculum. This is excellent stuff and I highly recommend looking up the Social Thinking information. Summer time is a time that while it’s good to relax and make family time, our children need to continue to have social interactions and not too much alone time or television or video game time. Consider this as one of your options…..


Subject: Summer Camps
Date: Wed, 3 Apr 2013 17:19:33 +0000


Hello All Family Members,

The summer is almost here and that means it is almost time for camp for some of our constituents. If you are not familiar with the camps offered by PALS and UCF CARD please read below for more general information. Specific information regarding times, dates, locations and guidelines are located in the attached camp applications.




Camp TWO-CAN is a summer program for children with and without autism spectrum disorders* (ASD) in 3  Central Florida locations. The ages of campers range from 5-22, depending on the location. Our West and Brevard locations accommodate campers ages 5-22. East camp accommodates 5-16 year olds.

The program was developed in response to the limited options and high demand for appropriate summer programs where children with autism spectrum disorders can interact with other children.

Camp TWO-CAN provides campers with a natural environment to help build friendships, learn and use social skills, explore nature, make arts and crafts, participate in swimming/sports/games, and use various functional skills, all while having fun!

Activities for all campers consist of:

  • arts & crafts
  • music & movement
  • general play activities
  • outdoor games/activities
  • swimming
  • weekly field trips to exciting locations
  • daily out-of-camp experiences
  • movie theatres
  • shopping


Small groups of children are supervised by adults who have experience working with children with autism. Families have the option to choose one week intervals for participation that work around their summer schedule.

Funding for Camp TWO-CAN is subsidized through PALS (Providing Autism Links and Supports), a local non-profit group, with a mission to support the UCF-CARD constituents.

Camp hours are: Monday – Friday from 9:00am – 3:00pm. No early drop off, late pickup, or after care available.

*Campers with ASD must be registered with the UCF Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (UCF CARD).


Secret Social Spy Academy


Secret Social Spy Academy is typically a three week, half-day, social skills intervention program that teaches students

ages 5-14 with ASD and related disabilities how to be flexible thinkers, problem solvers, and effective perspective

takers. Led by a master ASD teacher and a speech-language pathologist who have presented nationally on their

innovative practices for students with ASD, this program is in its fourth year of operation under the auspices of PALS

(Providing Autism Links and Supports), a non-profit group that supports services for registered constituents of the UCF

Center for Autism and Related Disabilities. The Secret Social Spy Academy is subsidized through fundraising efforts by

PALS and collaboration from OCPS. This program is best suited for children with near-age-level language and cognitive

skills. Children should also have mastered basic attending skills and be able to function in a group setting with minimal

to moderate prompting. The curriculum will be based on Michelle Garcia Winner’s Social Thinking® Concepts. For our

younger detectives we will use a modified version of Superflex® curriculum by Stephanie Madrigal and Michelle Garcia

Winner. For our older detectives we will put more of an emphasis on Social Behavior Mapping©, perspective taking

and social problem solving.



Please note that these programs are not “child care” or summer respite. These are highly planned and intensive half day

intervention programs. Group A will be from 9am-12am and Group B will be from 1pm-4pm. Groups will be formed on a

rolling admissions basis, based on ages, needs, and receipt of deposit, so it is recommended that applications be

submitted well in advance of deadlines to secure a spot in the session of your choice. If the program session of interest

has filled to capacity, your child’s name will be added to a waiting list.


If you have any further questions please call our office at 407-823-6011.






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.


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