Words of Praise

I’ve thought a lot about positive reinforcement. Praising children seems to be a no-brainer. But I’ve had some questions:

● What makes the new learning stick and have meaning?
● What can I say or do to help kids retain what they’ve learned?
● What makes MY new learning stick?

The key is finding intrinsic meaning in the task at hand. The new information needs to relate to something real and meaningful. Making associations or learning with a friend is one way to create meaning and is fun. It also helps if the task is experiential.

As a parent, my husband and I wanted our kids to feel good about themselves for being who they are; not in response to how others judged them. We thought that if our kids could reflect on and recognize their personal growth and worth they would be lifelong learners and ultimately feel better about themselves. (I think it’s working but the parenting is not over yet!)

So many kids come to our Social Adventures Groups with poor self-esteem; the world is telling them they don’t measure up. Our goal is to build competence leading to confidence. They learn how to be a friend; not because we tell them they are good friends but because they are actually acting friendly and are rewarded by kids saying, “You’re my best friend” or “Can you come to my house to play?” The kids don’t need us telling them, “Good job” or “Those words made Johnny feel so much better.” The friendly feedback and all around good feelings create the intrinsic motivation to learn more, try harder, remember, and grow. Reinforcement is good but the ultimate goal is always to create a safe place for children to learn, make mistakes, recover, reflect and bloom. As Spring approaches, I wish you all many opportunities to plant and water seeds of learning in your children and watch them feel proud in all their splendid glory!

Submit: Jill Perry M.S. OTR/L

image by: crimsong19

ice cream

Should I Share My Ice Cream?

Title: Should I Share My Ice Cream?

Author: Mo Willems

Description: The beloved elephant, Gerald, labors over the decision whether to share his ice cream with friend, Piggie. Should he or shouldn’t he….?


  • Body language/facial expressions
  • Friendship
  • Perspective taking
  • Prediction
  • Emotions

Why I like this story: A beautiful story about Gerald who doesn’t want to share his ice cream but knows it would be the friendly thing to do. He thinks about what Piggie might be feeling and makes a decision. The twist at the end is the icing on the cake (or the whipped cream on the ice cream)!

Ideas for use:

  • Great book to lead off discussion about why we share and how it makes us feel.
  • Talk about Gerald’s facial expressions and body language and how that communicates what he is thinking and feeling.
  • Kids may want to act out Gerald’s exaggerated body language and see if others can guess what they are feeling or thinking.
  • Have kids predict what Gerald will decide based on his page by page reasoning.
  • Discuss how Gerald feels when the plans change unexpectedly. What does Gerald do? What would the kids listening to the story do?

Submitted by: Jill Perry, MHA, MS, OTR/L

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Like this review and activities? Check out the Social Adventures App for more activities for children.


no thanks

It’s All in HOW You Say Something

One of our social groups has a number of friends with inappropriate tone of voice. I’m sure you all know those friends that use that “angry” tone of voice to both peers and adults when anything goes against their plan. It can be as simple as a friend bumping in to them, having to wait too long for a turn, or even asking a friend to try their idea. Many kids we see in our social group struggle with flexibility and perspective taking, so it’s not surprising that tone of voice is an issue. Too many times I’ve seen adults (myself included) say to kids “Is that how we talk to teachers/friends?” Of course the child knows the answer is “no” but how do we give them opportunity to really practice and understand how important tone of voice is? Jill and I attempted to do this with some help from Dr. Lynne Kenney who introduced us to Kimochis, these adorable stuffed toys that can be used to teach emotions.

Our group is full of very energetic boys. Given this, and their difficulty with using and interpreting body language, we decided to ensure movement was a component of this activity. The boys were to choose a Kimochi from a bag. Each stuffed toy has an adorable simple facial expression, with the emotion written on the back (e.g. confused, excited, mad, happy, etc.). The child was to then move their body up the ramp (if you don’t have a ramp, do it across the room) demonstrating the particular emotion they chose. Holding the Kimochi was helpful for them to “check in” to see if their face and their body matched the emotion in their hand. The other friends were supposed to guess what emotion they were “acting” out. Then, when they got to the end of the ramp, and before jumping into the ball pit (an exercise in impulse control too), they were given a phrase to say in the given emotion. This same phrase “It’s dinner time.” was used for every emotion to demonstrate that you can say the same phrase a million different ways, and it changes the meaning. This led to lots of discussion with everyone around why you might say the phrase that way. They were able to generate that you may say it like you are mad because you don’t want to stop playing your Wii. You might say it sad because you know you’re having broccoli and you hate broccoli. You might say it excited because you’re going out to dinner!

Next week, we plan to shift the activity to phrases that they often say “It’s my turn,” “Can you stop?” “I don’t want to do that,” etc. in the moment, and practice the differences in tone, and point out others’ body language in reaction to their words and tone. How does it change? What does it mean? Should they try to say that again? The hope is that through continued repetitive practice of tone of voice, kids can start learning that how you say something makes all the difference.

Submitted by Meghan G. Graham M.S. CCC-SLP

If you like this activity, you will love the activities available in our Social Adventures app.

Angry Feelings Swept Away

Our little Mike in the Social Adventures group is a young 5 and wears an angry expression on his face.  He has such difficulty transitioning into the group, between activities, even within conversations, that he just can’t relax and enjoy himself.  Other kids in the group share some of this rigidity and transition difficulties, which causes them to experience stress, anger and disappointment as well.  Body-space challenges lead to kids bumping into each other or knocking over creations in the gym, which sets the whole group reeling with uncomfortable emotions and disorganized chaos.

One day my co-leader, Sue, suggested we read The Angry Octopus by Lori Lite at the beginning of group.  Now, it has been my habit to read books as a calming activity after the gym and just before the kids go home.  But…I agreed to read the book earlier in the session to see if we could help the kids achieve a more relaxed state, in hopes that they would be more open to the activities that follow.  Why not try something radical!   Since I didn’t have time to order the book, I downloaded the app and minutes later found myself reading The Angry Octopus to the kids.  The background throughout the book consisted of an ocean that gently waved like a horizontal lava lamp making us feel as if we were at the bottom of the ocean.   The kids sat in beanbag chairs; their eyes glued to the book, as they tensed and relaxed specific body parts along with the octopus.  They also completely related to the story line – the octopus learning to deal with his anger as a result of playful lobsters inadvertently messing up his shell garden in the night!

As you may have guessed, the rest of the group was calmer with fewer flared emotions and physical insults than we had experienced up to that point.  Little Mike participated in each activity with greater ease and a number of smiles crossed his face throughout the hour.  When mayhem began to arise in the gym, we were able to corral the kids into a corner and help them visualize the octopus as they took deep breaths, curled up into a ball, and then stretched out on the mats.  Each child was able to implement this calming strategy on the spot sufficiently enough to resume playing and leave the gym cooperatively when it was time to go.

Please look into Lori Lite’s books and follow her on twitter and Facebook.  Just reading her work brings me back to the ocean and relaxes the lines on my face.  Thank you Lori!

by Jill Perry, MHA, MS, OTR/L

If you found the ideas in this blog helpful, you will definitely appreciate the activity ideas in the Social Adventures app available on the Social Adventures - all4mychild


Pushing Buttons

If you work with children, have children, live next door to children, see children in the grocery store, eat in restaurants next to children (OK, you get the point), you know exactly what I mean by “pushing buttons.” I think kids are born with the innate knowledge and skill set for finding out what annoys people and targeting behaviors to get a reaction. I feel like an irritable old woman talking like this but I do believe pushing buttons is one of MY personal buttons! It is so difficult to work with kids in social cognition groups on how to be a good friend while they seek to engage their “friends” by annoying them!

Meghan and I decided to take up this issue in our 2nd grade group the other day in a round about, yet concrete way and I think something may have “clicked” for the kids. We started the group by pulling out the ever-fascinating and engaging iPad. As the kids all clamored to find out what activity we would be doing, we simply asked each student to look at all the games on the iPad and push any button they wanted. After each child took a turn exploring a little we discussed why pushing buttons on the iPad was fun. The kids came up with thoughts such as: it’s fun; we want to see what happens; and we want to do what our friends are doing. We quickly progressed to a discussion on why we push each other’s buttons and discovered, the reasons were the same: it was fun; we wanted to get a reaction; we did it because our friends were doing it.

Each of the students then drew a picture of one thing that pushes their buttons. As we shared the pictures and wrote the “buttons” on the board, each child told how they feel when their button is pushed describing angry or sad feelings or both.

Finally, we routed back to the reasons why we push buttons and asked the kids if they think it’s fun to cause our friends to feel sad or angry. I could almost see the light bulb illuminating above their heads! We concluded the group by playing a board game and reminded the kids that they were working on NOT pushing each other’s buttons. Surprisingly and happily a peaceful, friendly time was had by all!

Submitted by: Jill Perry MHA, M.S. OTR/L

If you found the ideas in this blog helpful, you will definitely appreciate the activity ideas in the Social Adventures app available on the Social Adventures - all4mychild

llama llama holiday pic

Llama Llama Holiday Drama

Book Title Llama Llama Holiday Drama

Author: Anna Dewdney

A brief description: Llama Llama Holiday Drama is a cute book about a young llama who endures all of the preparations of Christmas and eagerly anticipates the arrival of the holiday…only to find that the hoopla of the big day is a bit too much. The book ends with little llama snuggled up in his mama’s lap, learning that “Gifts are nice, but there’s another; The true gift we have is each other” (pg. 27).

Approximate Age/Language Level: Preschool/Early Elementary

Goals/Concepts addressed: Llama Llama is ripe with possibilities for speech and language goals. There is, of course, the most obvious one: any child working on /l/ sounds will love to practice them over and over while reading this book. The book can also be used to facilitate a discussion of Christmas vocabulary, both familiar (fluffy snow, cookies, gifts, stocking, snowflakes) and unfamiliar (dreidels, eggnog, jingle music, funny elves, lights ablaze). It’s written in a catchy rhyme, making it a great book for helping build phonemic awareness. And finally, the underlying themes of anticipation, disappointment, and love help weave a beautiful story that holds great potential for promoting discussion about emotions.

Ideas for use:

  • Practice or bombard with /l/ sounds while reading.
  • Before reading the book, discuss Christmas vocabulary.
  • During or after reading the book, discuss and define unknown vocabulary.
  • Before reading the book, list and discuss Christmas traditions.
  • As you read the book, check off the traditions you had listed.
  • After you read the book, list and discuss the traditions that were not thought of before reading the book.
  • Ask students to summarize the narrative in their own words, as doing so requires them to infer what happened to little llama and put it into simple narrative format.
  • Use the book as a springboard for discussion about emotions; talk about different emotions and how we learn to manage our emotions.
  • ALSO ADDED a Lesson Plan from the Lesson Diva idea. Thanks Heidi from @pediastaff for the heads up!
Submitted by: Becca Jarzynski, M.S., CCC-SLP, Author of Child Talk:

Please support books4all and order this book from  Thank you!

my mouth is a

My Mouth is a Volcano

Book: My Mouth Is a Volcano!

Author: Julia Cook

Illustrator: Carrie Hartman

Age: preschool, elementary school

Description: Louis is a “blurter” and constantly interrupting others and speaking when he should listen or raise his hand. His mother comes up with a simple strategy to help limit his volcanic eruptions.


  • Impulse control
  • Self-regulation
  • Patience (or impatience)
  • Sensory regulation
  • Empathy
  • Perspective taking
  • Social Skills
  • Reading Body Language

Why I like this book: The story is told from the perspective of Louis, the “erupter”, and is presented in an understanding, realistic light. Children easily relate to this story and are therefore, more willing to work on solving the “problem”.

Ideas for use:

  • Good book to read to a group or classroom of kids to identify the problem. The kids will laugh through the first reading at the entertaining illustrations.
  • As you read the book a second time, discuss how each character is feeling, (e.g. teacher, Louis, classmates, other interrupters). Use thinking bubbles and speaking bubbles to help.
  • Point out body language of characters and “why”
  • Engage kids in a discussion about how they feel when they are interrupted.
  • Many kids talk about their fear of forgetting what they want to say if they don’t “blurt” it out. Work on strategies with them to help them remember.
  • Remind kiddos to wait for a “pause,” raise a hand, etc.
  • Address the physical wiggling, jumping up, and sounds kids make when they interrupt. Provide sensory and motor activities to help their bodies remain calm (e.g. deep breathing, move-‘n-sit cushion, squeeze ball).

Submitted by:  Jill Perry, MHA, MS, OTR/L   and  Meghan G. Graham M.S. CCC-SLP

Please support books4all and order this book from  Thank you!

*Like this review and activities? Check out the Social Adventures App for more activities for children.

A Face Can Tell a 1000 Stories

Emotions…ahhh, the big word for kids on the autism spectrum or for children with non-verbal learning disabilities.  We are all looking for ways to help kids better understand facial expressions and emotions.  Live faces can be too overwhelming and therefore impossible to process.  TV and movies go by too fast to enable effective understanding.  Photo cards of different people expressing different emotions can be useful but also get crumbled, lost, and sometimes chewed up.  Then there is the question of how to work on facial expressions and their meaning in a group context since that is when kids will most often need to interpret emotions; on the fly, with peers in school and on the playground.

We have discovered a simple tool in the ABA Flash Cards – Emotions app developed by Innovative Mobile Apps.  The app is essentially a set of photos of a variety of different faces showing a variety of different emotions.  We take one child away from the group and show a picture of one of the emotions in the app.  That child then attempts to replicate the emotional expression and checks if he is doing it right by looking in a hand held mirror.   When he is satisfied that his expression accurately reflects the emotion he is trying to convey, he shows it to the group who then guesses what that child is “feeling”.   When the group members are correct, the “actor” proudly turns the iPad around to show the group what he was mimicking.  With older kids, we talk about why the child in the picture may be experiencing that emotion. We talk about what could have happened to cause that feeling.  We discuss when and where the kids in the group may have felt that way and how others reacted to them.

Yes, this activity could be done with photo cards as well but the extensive number of cards, the capability to put your own photos in the program AND the fact that this is an “app”  make this a much more acceptable and cool way to work on that big concept…Emotions.

by Jill Perry, MS, MHA, OTR/L

If you found the ideas in this blog helpful, you will definitely appreciate the activity ideas in the Social Adventures app available on the Social Adventures - all4mychild