Category Archives: Flexibility

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.

TIFY MUSICCD2

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

New App! Zones of Regulation App!

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I wanted to take a moment to highlight a FABULOUS, must-have app for both iOS and Android platforms to go with the curriculum, The Zones of Regulation!  The Zones of Regulation (2011 Social Thinking Publishing), written by OTR, Leah Kuypers is one of the very best resources I have found to work with students on emotional regulation.   The tools in this resource weave together concepts of Social Thinking  (Michelle Garcia Winner  – www.socialthinking.com), the Incredible 5 Point Scale (Kari Dunn-Buron & Mitzi Curtis – www.5pointscale.com), and elements of sensory integration, into a comprehensive program to teach emotional regulation to students.   Using a cognitive behavioral approach, students are able to learn to categorize their emotions and levels of alertness into 4 colored “Zones”.  Now, there is a mobile App to use to continue to reinforce skills learned!

The app was released last week and has an unbelievable price point of $4.99 as of the date of this blog post.    This app has it ALL!  Throughout the app, students of all ages learn to tools to manage different feelings  in each Zone, individualized “triggers” for particular Zones, and problem solving skills.  The app layout is a fun, interactive game to engage kids – teaching moments are interwoven throughout a game-interface where players can earn achievements, coins to earn extra “powers” or clothing for their characters, and challenges.    This week, I used it with a very “spirited” group of six 2nd and 3rd grade students under the Autism Spectrum umbrella, and this app has kept them engaged for daily social skills group 5 days this week!  This group can be a tough sell – but they have been excited to come back to group the next day!

Here is a link to the app at the iTunes App Store:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/the-zones-of-regulation/id610272864?mt=8

Here is a link to the Zones of Regulation website – if you do have this resource yet – put it at the top of your ordering list!

http://zonesofregulation.com

Here are some screen shots:    Get it TODAY!!!

Zones 1 Zones 2 Zones 3 Zones 4

Teach Kids to Ignore…the right way…

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As you know, I have been working with kids on Attention/Focus skills – I wanted to highlight another tool I use with my elementary-age kiddos to teach them what “IGNORING” means.  I often find that many of my kids don’t really implicitly understand broad concepts such as, “Use nice words”, “Respect others”, or “Ignore please.”  I find myself needing to really concretely define what these concepts mean – in a way that literally describes what the concept “looks like, sounds like”, etc.  Much of my caseload is composed of students on the autism spectrum, kids with ADD/ADHD, etc – and they need this level of defining.  Simply asking them to “ignore” is too abstract for many of my kids to apply.  They are often the kids who struggle the most with maintaining attention and focus – yet they are also the same students who cause disruptions in the learning of their classmates.  So, I created this little PowerPoint for kids to help them understand in a very direct, concrete way, what “Ignoring” means – how to DO it, and when NOT to do it….

Here are some screen shots from this 13 slide PowerPoint and here is a link for you:  ignoring PPT for kids  Best wishes!  Jill

Ignore SS 1

Ignore SS 2

Ignore SS 3

Teaching Kids about Change – Using the 5 Point Scale

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Good evening everyone!  I wanted to share a couple of more resources I have used when teaching kids about Handling Change!.  You may have seen a recent post with a PowerPoint lesson for kids I shared called, “A Kid’s Guide to Understanding and Handling Change.”  In these new resources, I use the fabulous 5 Point Scale (Kari Dunn-Buron & Mitzi Curtis – http://www.5pointscale.com/).  

The 5 Point Scale is  a wonderful tool I incorporated to this topic to help kids understand what “SIZE” of a change they might be facing.  This tool helps kids “quantify” and compartmentalize what might constitute a small change versus a bigger, life-altering change.  Remember, many kids with social/emotional challenges have difficulty seeing the “grays”, and the exceptions to the rule.  They are “all-or-none” folks.  These kids perceive situations and feelings as exaggerated and “huge or intense” much of the time.  Many times they need a concrete, visual tool that breaks down information in a way that they can process. 

There are two documents here:

1) A worksheet to help kids think about what “Expected” Changes they encounter, versus “Unexpected Changes”.

Click here:  Change Worksheet 

2)  A two-page document using the 5 Point Scale.  The first page has a graph of the 5 Point Scale and some operational definitions of each SIZE of change, with some examples.   There is a section for kids to record some of their own personal examples for each size.  The second page is a page with just the definitions.  Now, keep in mind that I have kind of systematically tried to “define” each type of change.  Of course, these definitions are not written in stone, nor are they the Gospel.  But, I wanted to provide something concrete for my students to wrap their heads around.

Click here:  Change 5 Pt Scale

When CHANGES occur in your classroom, or even for book characters, read aloud characters, etc – stop and take a moment to review the 5  Point Scale provided here and ask your students, “What size change is this?”  “Was this an expected or unexpected change?”, “Do you think this change is welcome or unwelcome?”.  Using this visual and asking these questions during langauge arts work and read aloud time can help to transfer some of the social/emotional learning points into other aspects of the child’s school day.

Enjoy!  – Jill