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More Flexible Thinking Strategies

Hand writing be flexible



It gets frustrating sometimes when I must try to convince a teacher or administrator of the value of social thinking groups and how flexible thinking applies to a student’s academic performance and life-long success.  I try to show them that flexible thinking plays a key role in all types of learning.  The ability to think flexibly is the ability to shift the thinking process to interpret information in more than one way or to change approaches and strategies when needed.  Flexible thinking is all about being able to switch gears and find new ways to solve problems.  Flexible thinking means we might have to unlearn old ways of doing things, called set shifting, in order to use a new way.

Flexibility helps us to:

  • adjust to new situations
  • learn from mistakes
  • deal with changes in routine
  • figure out how to complete new school assignments
  • plan the day to fit in everything that needs to be done
  • pay attention to more than one thing at the same time
  • switch from one subject to another at school
  • try new things

Flexibile thinking is important for:

  • Reading comprehension
  • Written language
  • Math
  • Science and Social Studies
  • Learning a foreign language
  • Studying and test-taking

Practice in social skills group activities and playing games helps students get better at flexible thinking in real life.  Here are some of the games and activities that we use in Lunch Buddies to practice flexibility:




This is an oldie but goodie.  The activities using multiple meaning words are fun and helpful for the students to understand how words can be used in more than one way.  I believe that it is still available at





For practice in flexible problem solving, we use Fix The Problem! A Social and Emotional Problem Solving Game created by Joel Shaul and available as a free download at

PicMonkey Collage



Spot it! games require that players think fast and shift gears quickly.

PicMonkey Collage



Jokes, riddles, puns and figurative language are fun ways to learn flexible thinking skills.

PicMonkey Collage






My Best,



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What was your Flexible Thinking moment today?


We all try to be Flexible Thinkers.

Ask your child “What was your flexible thinking moment today?”



Reading Comprehension and Social Thinking

There is a connection between reading comprehension and social thinking.  Children who struggle with reading comprehension usually have difficulty using social judgment on the playground and when working in cooperative groups.  Children who have social learning challenges usually struggle to make inferences and draw conclusions as they read.  Both social thinking and reading comprehension require a high level of perspective taking.  When we are around other people, we need to think about their thoughts, motives, and intentions.  When we read, we have to get into the characters heads and imagine what they are thinking and what they might do next.

In social settings, children must read the facial expressions and body language of others in order to make a smart guess about which groups to attempt to enter and which ones to avoid.  They need to be able to anticipate how problems can occur in order to take steps to solve them.  They must be able to compromise, negotiate, and be flexible thinkers in order to make and keep friends.  To comprehend what they read, children must imagine what their characters are thinking.  They must use the words to create a picture or use the picture provided to imagine what the characters are thinking.

I use a variety of strategies with my clients who struggle with reading.  I have found great success when I help them make the invisible visible.  I Get It! by Audra Jensen gave me a kick-start on how to apply the Social Thinking® vocabulary and concepts to reading comprehension.


I’m a Frog! by Mo Willems is an example of a book that I would use when working on the concept of a shared imagination.



In this book, Piggie understands what it means to pretend and wants to help Gerald share in his pretending.  Gerald just doesn’t get it!

I hide the text and ask my clients to make smart guesses about what the characters are thinking.  I ask them to think with their eyes by pointing out facial expressions and body language.





Then we look at the text to see if our guesses were correct or close.


Wambat Walkabout by Carol Diggory Shields and illustrated by Sophie Blackall is the perfect text when working on the concept of keeping your body in the group.



For an extensive list of books to support reading comprehension and Social Thinking® concepts, visit


We, educators and therapists, must be careful that we do not assume that reading comprehension is not a concern if students have high cognitive skills, a robust vocabulary, can decode, and are able to answer general WH questions about what they read.  We need to help them dig deeper and help them to put themselves into a story and understand perspectives and how different people and situations affect each other and their environment.

My Best,




My Take-Away from the Social Thinking® Conference


The topic of Socially Based Executive Functions was discussed early on during the conference. These functions help us to accomplish specific social goals such as:

  • Make a friend
  • Keep a friend
  • Work well in a group
  • Express your point of view in a manner so that other’s can consider it

In a face-to-face interaction we use these skills to socially attend to the situation in order to create a social plan and then adapting our language and behavior to encourage others to interpret our intentions in the manner we had hoped.

Food for thought!

Michelle Garcia Winner talked a great deal about the Social Academic Connection:

The social mind helps us to actively listen, infer, get the gist, engage in deeper critical thinking, initiate communication, produce narrative language, and engage in personal problem solving. Without social knowledge, learning is trapped in rote based learning and responses. The ability to comprehend and explain information, spoken or written, rests on our social knowledge.

Ms. Winner has a knack for saying what some of us are thinking!!  We know the big buzz is “growth mindset vs. fixed mindset”.  She said that there are teachers trying to teach kids about having a growth mindset who DO NOT have a growth mindset themselves.  I have observed that quite a bit.

New Products:

Superflex My Hero Inside with CDI wish that I had had this CD during the Flexible First Graders group!  Music/songs help learning stick and these are charming.  All the way back to Richmond I brainstormed how I would use this next school year and with the Builders & Gamers at Autastic Avenues.

The 13 songs that support social emotional learning as taught through the Super Flex curriculum. Each song is an upbeat combination of music and lyrics that can help kids learn more about the sneaky Unthinkables that may be invading their brain and causing them to do or say things that make others uncomfortable. By calling on our Super Flex hero inside and using our super flexible thinking powers, we can learn to better problem solve and self-monitor our social skills to help keep others (and ourselves) feeling comfortable being together. Music and lyrics are based on the original Super Flex curriculum book created by Stephanie Madrigal and Michelle Garcia Winner.


The printable lyrics are available on the website.




I bought this a couple of weeks ago and I appreciated the references to the Guidebook and Thinksheets during the conference.  As with all of the Social Thinking® products, this is a tool.  We can make it work for us and our clients and students.
Social Thinking and Me uses language that is understandable to both kids and adults, and breaks down complex topics in a way that is clear and manageable to both new and familiar learners of Social Thinking. Its voice is guiding, kid friendly, and sometimes humorous in nature, helping kids let down their guard and feel open to learning concepts that challenge them.
It provides a deep focus on helping individuals understand their emotions and how their actions affect the emotions of others. The books mindfully work to help kids develop their own “feelings” vocabulary (beyond happy, sad, mad), guide them to begin thinking about their own feelings, and then discuss the feelings of others – such as how certain situations might make others feel, how our actions can impact how others feel and vice versa, and the body language or nonverbal communication associated with different emotions.

Social Thinking concepts covered include:
What is Social Thinking
Social Thinking = Flexible Thinking
We All Have Feelings
Thinking With Your Eyes
Thinking About the Hidden Rules and Expected Behavior
Keeping my Body, Eyes, Ears, and Brain in the Group
Thinking of Others vs Just Me
How Big is My Problem?
Thinking About My Reaction Size
Doing An Activity or Just Hanging Out

At the end of each chapter is a “pointer” that sends the reader over to the Thinksheets book, where they work through thinksheets to help them explore and practice these new social concepts in true-to-life scenarios and situations.

I achieve a better understanding of Social Thinking with each conference.




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Flexible First Graders



We had our last session of Flexible First Graders last week.  What a wonderful final lesson ~ reading the book ISHI-simple tips from a solid friend  (

I want to thank creative social thinker, Mary Keiger, for introducing me to this sweet, happy book.  See her blog post and activities

The Flexible First Graders have worked diligently all year to build a toolbox of self-regulation strategies.  They have learned ways to defeat the Unthinkables who try to get them to get stuck or have unexpected reactions to small problems.

They learned that it is okay to ask for help and it is okay to make mistakes.

Thank you, Mrs. Lippman, for allowing us to work with such a fine group of flexible thinkers.




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Flexible First Graders take on Brain Eater



The Flexible First Graders are back on track and learning how to defeat yet another Unthinkable. This time it is Brain Eater.  Brain Eater can distract you from doing important things like get ready for school, do homework, and focus on the lesson in class.  Brain Eater uses distractors like TV, video games, velcro on a shoe, or thoughts about your upcoming birthday party!

I introduced the class to Brain Eater by reading a portion of the book, Superflex takes on Brain Eater and the team of Unthinkables by Stephanie Madrigal and Michelle Garcia Winner.  They were all quite sure that Brain Eater had had an effect on them many times.  We talked about strategies that could be used to defeat him.  The book includes a coloring sheet of the Superflex distractor shield which can be placed over the object that is distracting (toy or screen). This class is very clever when it comes to thinking of ways to be flexible.

Next, we watched this super funny video showing what it looks like when Brain Eater is on the loose at school.

Finally, Ned’s Head made a great prop for showing the student’s how some distracters are inside our heads (sticky thoughts and worries) and some are outside our heads (classmate humming while he works).  This activity is from Jill Kuzma’s website at

Stay flexible,


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Flexible First Graders take on Rock Brain and Glassman



Flexible First Graders, AKA Mrs. Lippman’s class, are learning how to use their flexible brain to defeat Rock Brain and Glassman.   Rock Brain and Glassman are part of a team of villains known as The Unthinkables.  Rock Brain is known for getting into your head and getting you “stuck” in rigid thinking. Glassman causes you to have really big reactions to small problems.  The consequences of these two working together can be big trouble for you.  Luckily, we have Superflex® to save the day! Superflex is your super flexible brain in the form of a super hero.  We can learn how to defeat those Unthinkables using Superflex strategies.

First, we need to understand what is meant by expected and unexpected behaviors.  Here is a link to Jill Kuzma’s terrific visuals –


Find more visuals and information at

Then, we can list the expected behaviors when Glassman attacks.  Expected behaviors might include:

  • Stay in control of your body
  • Express your feelings in a calm way
  • Take a break to calm down
  • Be kind and considerate to those around you

Next we can apply these expected behaviors to complete a social behavior map-



I used Smarty Ears app for iPad to create this social script for defeating Glassman.





We all got a kick out of these videos that I found on YouTube.



Superflex® and The Unthinkables are the creations of Stephanie Madrigal and Michelle Garacia Winner.  Find out more at















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Taking Social Thinking into the Classroom

e30a380d-2520-491a-a9d1-37e4699e47f4I don’t know of anything that makes me happier than working in classrooms.  Mrs. Rairden (OT) and I began going into one of the K classes about a month ago.  Our view is that if we can get everyone to use the same Social Thinking® vocabulary and concepts, we can support each other throughout the day.  Take a look at how we do it – Very special moments as we practice mindfulness.

This is called the “Hello Game”.  During the Hello Game each child looks into the face/eyes of the person sitting next to them and says “Hello, your eyes are____”, or ” Hello, your eyes look _____”.  The first time we did this game, there were lots of giggles and uncomfortable thoughts.  Now, the children are much more comfortable thinking about others on purpose.


We heard the sweetest things.  “Your eyes look shiny”, “Your eyes are beautiful”, and “Your eyes are smiling” just to name a few.


There are so many wonderful books available that help students to understand “thinking about you, thinking about me” and other social concepts. Thinking Thoughts and Feeling Feelings is part of  the Incredible Flexible You Curriculum from Social Thinking®. Your brain is where you think a thought and your heart is your feelings keeper.

thoughts and feelings book


We use lots of visuals, like thought bubbles.  We talk about how our thoughts affect our feelings and that we can change our feelings by changing our thoughts. The Zones of Regulation® is featured in our weekly activities.  We know that it is ok to feel our feelings but it is what we do when we feel those feelings that is important. A great social story for this concept is Sometimes I Feel Green by Lynn Hubbell and available at


zones sometimes i feel green



Here I am reading The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires.  The story is about a girl who shows persistence and hard work.  She does not give up until her invention is just right.  Her assistant, her dog, is very supportive and suggests coping strategies along the way. The children loved the story.



Did you notice my Wonder Woman Bracelets?  Wednesday was a particularly difficult day.  The slings and arrows were mentally fended off by this visual support! :).

We are working to match the size of our reactions to the size of the problem.  If we stop to think about the size of the problem, we are often able to solve it ourselves, easy-peasy, and get on with the job at hand.

size of problem

For more information about Social Thinking® visit www. and for more information on The Zones of Regulation® go to www.


We are all a work in progress!

Best, Robin

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What Are You Thinking?

I have question! Portrait curious suspicious young girl student.

There are numerous benefits of perspective taking.  When we consider the world from outside ourselves we are better at problem solving, decision making and resolving conflicts.  Perspective taking is thought to lead to helping behaviors and empathy.   When we can see “the big picture” we are more likely to think flexibly.


Practice makes progress!

Perspective Party is indeed a party.  Such fun practicing flexible thinking when we perceive someone else’s thoughts and feelings in a variety of social scenarios.



Find this great activity at






Bubble Talk is a great game for helping kids consider what someone else is thinking or saying in a given picture.  When we play, we use perspective taking to make smart guesses about which caption the judge will choose as the best.








Enjoy the President’s Day holiday tomorrow.  Try to stay warm and fingers crossed for an extended holiday on Tuesday.






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Developing a Flexible Reputation


Last week, the Lunch Buddies had a great lesson concerning “a Flexible Reputation”.  I got the idea from the book,  Unstuck & On Target!  The book is an executive function curriculum and chock full of great ideas and lesson plans.  I got my copy from




First,  we discussed the meaning of a reputation.  Then, I pointed out that when we are repeatedly flexible, people start to think of us as flexible and we are more likely to get privileges based on our flexibility.  Flexible Reputation Scenarios are part of the lesson. Thanks to confidential informants, some of our scenarios are real, straight from the students everyday school experiences.

I made this visual as a take away, power card, reminder.

Flexible Powercard

There are many possibilities for extending and elaborating on this lesson.





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