Learning and Sharing

Our “Inner Jerks”



Recently, I have had a few middle school age clients who needed some coaching in how to deal with their “inner jerk” and the “inner jerk” in others.  These young people are discovering that acting like a jerk is one thing, being mean and cruel is another.  Knowing the difference and knowing how to solve problems proactively matters.

We all have to share space.  Sometimes we have to share space with people who just rub us the wrong way and bring out the worst in us.  These people can, and often do, wake up our “inner jerk”.  It is our job to try and control our “inner jerk” so that we don’t wake up the jerk in others.

Identifying what it means to be difficult is a good first step.  All of us, at one time or another, have been a difficult person to someone else.  The next step is to make a plan of action on how to deal or handle the “jerks” that we encounter in our everyday life.  Using positive self-talk or your inner coach is a great strategy for reminding ourselves that we can walk away before our emotions take over and we “flip our lids”.

There will always be jerks in our life.  You can’t control anyone else’s behavior but you can work hard to try and control your own “inner jerk” and put a stop to that behavior. Learning about how the brain works helps us self-regulate.



This is a very informative video showing a hand model of the brain.  It is long, but 12 minutes in, he demonstrates to a 13 year old how the brain works and what happens when we “flip our lids”.

Middle school is a tough place.  It is full of jerks, drama, and strong feelings.  Conflicts happen.  Being prepared with a knowledge of how the brain works and a plan of action for dealing with conflict can help keep us flexible and out of trouble.

For more information on the inner jerk, go to

Find more great ideas in Thinksheets for Tweens and Teens and Socially Curious and Curiously Social.  Both are Social Thinking® publications by Michele Garcia Winner and Pamela Crooke.



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This Is How We Do It!


Saturday is my busiest day now and I change my hat every hour, from 9:30am to 4:00. Kids are available on Saturday and I see 6 clients who present with very different needs.



Listening to an attention and regulation program while climbing and walking prepares this client to engage with his social group.


My client loves the concept of Digging Deeper.  He is not a “Big Picture” thinker, so the close reading process helps him to think beyond a list of details.

Read more about close reading at The Literacy Nest blog.

  •       Carefully look at the meaning of the text in a series of rereads.
  •       Give attention to ideas, supporting details, and central themes.
  •       Reflect on meanings of sentences and words. (the language of text)
  •       Not only reflect on their own thinking (metacognition), but reflect on other’s thinking. (the author!)

More on close reading:

  • Close reading isn’t about any one technique, but rather arriving at a goal as the reader.(Shanahan, 2013)
  • Close reading can be flexible. Three or four reads of the text every time may not be necessary, and not every text is meant to be closely read. One recommendation is for teachers to choose one challenging text to close read for every teaching unit.
  • Questioning is key. Teachers need to be VERY familiar with the text and take time to develop questions for each repeated read that will get students traveling to a new place with their thinking. These questions should also help the reader arrive at a deeper comprehension of the text.



My young clients who struggle with self-regulation get a kick out of Hunter and they recognize themselves in him as he works hard to stop before responding or reacting impulsively.  The remote serves as a concrete and familiar cue for organizing and integrating the concepts and skills for self-regulation.




Characters, Matt, Molly and their friends, show us the expected and unexpected behaviors for a variety of social settings.  Their exaggerated facial expressions and body language help my clients to better understand what they might be thinking and feeling in those social scenarios.  Processing verbal information through reading and matching sentences and pictures provides reading practice, too.


Dr. Erica Warren at Good Sensory Learning, has created workbooks for helping to strengthen visual discrimination,  reverse image reversals, and improve pattern recognition and tracking.  The exercises and strategies included in these products are a welcome addition to my multi-sensory reading sessions.

Have a great week!

My Best,


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Building Social Competencies


The We Thinkers! group at the JCC Preschool had their final session of the school year yesterday. As we reflected on our time together we talked about how our thinking had changed. The children expressed their thoughts on “a group plan” and a “shared imagination”. I was excited to hear them talk in terms of concepts, such as “expected vs unexpected” and “flexible thinking”. We are proud that this group is heading to kindergarten with new social competencies.

For more information about the We Thinkers! curriculum go to:

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Junior Mindreaders


Last week at the JCC preschool, we focused on applying all of the social thinking concepts that we have been working on since October.

Oliver & Hope’s Amusing Adventure by Meg Cadts is an inspiration to all of us.  The message of the book is to think about what you do have and not what you don’t have.  There are many opportunities for Oliver and Hope to give up or have a meltdown.  Luckily, they are flexible thinkers who are able to identify the size of a problem and match the size of their reaction.



My preschool friends do love to hear a book read to them.  If the story/book has been adapted to the small screen, they love it even more.  In her book, Movie Time Social Learning, Anna Vagin teaches us how to use strategies in the framework of movie/video watching to foster a client’s ability to think socially:  interpret emotional cues; read context; interpret thoughts, feelings, and plans;  and make “smart guesses” about social behavior.  Follow her at and on twitter @anna_vagin.


Watching No Roses For Harry gave the Junior Mindreaders opportunities to think with their eyes so that they could decode the thoughts and plans of others.  One of the Junior Mindreaders explained how important it is to think of others before giving them a gift.  She said that, “you need to think about what they like and not what you like”.  Indeed!!



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Sentence Building


I cut my speech therapist teeth on The Fokes Sentence Builder in 1977.  Wish I could get my hands on one now!  Since I cannot, I was lucky to find “a close enough” product by called Monster Sentences: Interactive Sentence Building and available on



Love this product!



My clients like the Sentence Builder, Sentence Builder Teen and Clicker Sentences apps.

After practicing with one of these apps, I get out a colorful pacing board and work toward generalization.




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Sharing an Imagination


Wonderful morning at the JCC preschool!  The targeted Social Thinking® concept for today was Sharing An Imagination.  A shared imagination is the ability to imagine what another person is thinking, feeling, and/or pretending.  Through Shared Collaborative Imaginative Play children learn an essential skill set to enable them to work and learn in groups, develop social relationships, and engage in socially-based critical thinking or social problem solving.



When is a spatula not a spatula?  When is a cardboard tube not a cardboard tube?  Francis and I stepped through The Hoop of Change and pretended to be a reporter and her cameraman.  We pretended that the spatula was a microphone and the cardboard tube was a video camera as we interviewed the children and asked about their spring break adventures.  Others stepped through The Hoop of Change and pretended to be cheetahs, lions and tigers hunting on the savanna.  Once they stepped back through The Hoop, they were children again!

Often, children with social learning challenges have difficulty joining and staying involved in this type of play and conversation.  Some children find it difficult to imagine someone else’s experience or point of view if it’s not their own.  Shared imagination helps us to imagine what characters are thinking and what might be their intentions; it is at the heart of reading comprehension, narrative language, and written expression.

Working through We Thinkers! Series Vol. 2 Social Problem Solvers Curriculum ( has been a blast for all of us!

Not a Box, by Antoinette Portis, is a beloved book with this group; it inspires conversation about sharing an imagination.







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Choosing reinforcers


I always try to associate myself with good things.  Finding a perfect reinforcer that matches a clients interest is so sweet!



The stacking robots are awesome.  Articulation drills can be tough but when you know these robots are waiting for you at the end, the hard work seems easier to get through.


My clients who work on executive function skills seem to love games of logic.  Lazer Maze is a magic reinforcer.


The right reinforcer means everything!

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We Thinkers! Social Problem Solvers Curriculum

I have been having so much fun at the JCC Preschool working with some sweet five year olds. The We Thinkers! Social Problem Solvers Curriculum is providing a wonderful framework to extend social learning.  In the fall, we started with the Incredible Flexible You covering Social Thinking® concepts such as whole body listening, the group plan, and thinking with your eyes.  Now we are working on even more complex concepts like hidden rules and making smart guesses.  The teachers in the classroom have given me positive feedback about how easy it is for them to use the social thinking vocabulary throughout the day.



Understanding social thinking concepts supports our ability to demonstrate social skills.





I learn so much from the Social Thinking® conferences.   In addition to learning how to use the tools, I get great ideas for books and games that enhance the teaching of each concept.  I leave the books and games behind at the preschool so that teachers can follow through during the week until I return.




Next week we will learn about flexible thinking and stuck thinking.  When we are flexible thinkers we can keep moving forward.  Flexible thinking means trying it another way or changing your plan to stay in step with what someone else needs you to do.


I’ll be using this youtube video created by




And I will be using  my flexible thinking script that I created using Custom Boards a Smarty Ears app.


In the words of Pete the Cat, “It’s all good”.



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Fun February!



Today, I am sharing some things that I love.  Some are old and some are new but they are all good!




When I am tutoring clients in reading, I rely so much on my training and experience as a speech/language pathologist.  This game has been used and loved for many, many years.

  • Targets

Auditory Discrimination (minimal pairs, word parts, sounds in words)
Auditory Memory (numbers, words, sentences, facts / details in a paragraph)
Auditory Integration (interpretation of directions, listening for key words, following multi-level commands)


This works!

071d713c4cc13629773539a608ea433a  is a fabulous resource for interactive books and ideas.  I used Where is the Heart? this month.  The packet includes a storybook, interactive comprehension activity and a sequencing activity.  Love it!   It does require time and effort to make, so plan ahead!


Gravity Maze is a wonderful incentive for my clients who are working on executive functioning skills.  It is worth working through the “not so fun stuff” to get to this.



Happy Valentine’s Day to You!





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Starting the New Year with Some New Games that Promote Executive Skills



Games of strategy allow us to work on strengthening and teaching executive function skills in a FUN way.  Card games in which children have to track playing cards exercise working memory and promote mental flexibility in the service of planning and strategy. Games that require monitoring and fast responses are great for challenging attention and quick decision-making.

Games involving strategy provide important practice with holding complicated moves in mind, planning many moves ahead, and then adjusting plans—both in response to imagined outcomes and the moves of opponents. With practice, children can develop real skill at games of strategy, while challenging working memory and cognitive flexibility.

Just this morning I worked with a client who struggles to stick with a task and not give up, even though it becomes very challenging.  As he played Towers of HanOink!, an app for executive functioning, he wanted to start over every time that he got stuck.  I encouraged him to play through, persevere, and figure out a solution. 



Ticket to Ride can be learned in under 15 minutes, while providing players with intense strategic and tactical decisions every turn.



There is only one rule in Blokus, but each player will have to plan ahead and self-monitor.



A twist on the game of Tic Tac Toe, Goblet Gobblers, requires sustained attention and often self-control.

These new (to me and my clients) games are going into rotation this week.  Your clients might find them to be fun and interesting as well.




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