Review: The Incredible Flexible You – A Social Thinking Curriculum for Preschool and Early Elementary Years

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This resource is EXACTLY what I have been looking for!!!  As an avid proponent of the Social Thinking® resources from Michelle Garcia-Winner (www.socialthinking.com) and her team for over a decade, I have truthfully struggled somewhat to adapt the materials for my younger learners in social skills group.  The Incredible Flexible You™:  Social Thinking Curriculum Set, Volume 1 most definitely fills this need.  Authors Ryan Hendrix, Kari Zweber Palmer, Nancy Tarshis and Michelle Garcia Winner, have created an interactive, engaging tool kit to introduce Social Thinking concepts and vocabulary to children ages 4-7 through storybooks, music & movement, and guided play skills.  This volume introduces the concepts of: “Thinking Thoughts and Feeling Feelings, The Group Plan, Thinking with your Eyes, Body in the Group, and Whole Body Listening.”  The storybooks are beautifully illustrated with engaging, diverse characters on adventures through high interest contexts for preschoolers – outer space, under the ocean, the farm, etc.

I purchased this curriculum in May while attending the Minnesota Autism Conference sponsored by the Autism Society of MN.   I began using it the very next day at school with a group of eleven Kindergarten/1st grade students that I serviced daily for social skills instruction.  Truth-be-told, it had been a challenge throughout the year to keep eleven of these little cherubs engaged during 30 minute groups each day, especially in May as their brains were clearly “out of my group” much of the time.  The Incredible Flexible You, was just the catalyst I needed to re-engage them in some social learning as we wrapped up the final weeks of school.

One of the most engaging aspects of the program is the music CD that accompanies the full kit.  The authors selected the award-winning artist Tom Chapin to co-write and perform 12 songs that reinforce the Social Thinking series’ concepts.    My kids quickly learned the lyrics to the songs, and would continually ask over and over to play the songs.  Together, we created some actions and movements to accompany several of the songs – their favorite song was “When you Think a Thought”.  The students enjoyed what we called “Dance Parties” where we sang and danced to the music – sharing social enjoyment with embedded social learning concepts all together.

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While most of the students in this group were on the “high” end of the autism spectrum, there was one particular kindergarten student that had limited functional language and adaptive skills than the other students.  Most of my learners are in the average intellectual range and pursuing the the same academic content and rigor as their age mates, yet they require more focused environmental modifications for learning and intense social/emotional instruction.  Given the differences between this one particular little boy and the others in the group, I often found myself struggling to adapt materials and activities to include this learner.    However, I was pleasantly surprised to see this little boy become enthralled with the storybooks and “dance parties” we had with The Incredible Flexible You kit!  While his expressive language skills are quite limited, resulting in difficulty determining what he is comprehending and getting out of the lessons, he clearly lit up when we used these materials!  He would use his limited verbal language skills to request particular books from the series, “Want group plan book…want group plan book!”  Even if the book was out of his view, he would approach me and initiate a request for a particular book, even during occasions where he was not scheduled to be in my classroom.  I would periodically catch him singing phrases of the songs to himself in the hallway and while engaging in sensory activities in our adjoining sensory-motor room.  He was so animated and social connected with his peers during our “dance parties” with the music CD, it was wonderful to see that this little boy, as well as my learners grasping social cognitive concepts along with me all year, were so engaged with the materials in this tool kit.

On the Social Thinking website (www.socialthinking.com), the authors indicate that the upcoming Volume 2 of the curriculum will cover Social Thinking concepts of: “Expected and Unexpected, Smart Guess, Flexible versus Stuck Thinking, Size of the Problem, and Sharing an Imagination.”   I will most definitely be rushing to get my hands on Volume 2 in 2014!  I would highly, highly recommend this product to any speech-language pathologist, special education teacher, or clinician who is working with preschool-early elementary age children.  In the fall, I plan to use this curriculum for the initial 6 weeks of school with my incoming Kindergarten learners, as well as my returning 1st and 2nd grade students.  I plan to share this with the general education kindergarten team in my building as well – the concepts and Social Thinking vocabulary is perfectly aligned with proactive classroom management initiatives in my school building.  The storybooks and songs could be easily incorporated into beginning of the year classroom “morning meetings” and classroom community-building activities during the 1st month of school.  It would be wonderful to see my students in their general education classrooms play a leadership role with their peers as their classmates explores the Incredible Flexible You concepts together.

You can find out more information on this product here: http://www.socialthinking.com/books-products/tify-curriculum-detail

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