Instructional tools from Social Thinking: A Teacher’s Review

Ken Shyminskya former vice president of the Greater Toronto Chapter of the Tourette Syndrome Foundation of Canada, draws upon his personal experiences as an teacher and student with Tourette Syndrome to help children with TS and related disorders. He also has Tourette himself and is the founder of the website Neurologically Gifted.

Social skills and social thinking are not easy for children who have neurological disorder.  Careful and intense instruction can help a child learn these skills which will improve their capacity to learn in all areas.

Before I give my support to these instructional tools, I’d like to state that I have no financial interests in this resource and receive nothing from the author or publisher.  I’ve merely used the resource and found it to be an effective tool for teaching children with behavior challenges to make positive changes in their lives.  In fact, I was so impressed with the resources, that I purchased a set for my stepson’s (self-contained behavior) classroom teacher. Using the resources together, we were able to establish common language and understanding to support my stepson’s profound behavior challenges at school and at home.

Profoundly challenged by TS, OCD and ADHD, my stepson had absolutely no self-regulation skills.  He lived his entire 10 years (at that time) “in the moment” that he was experiencing.  He’d hyper-focus on himself only, and gave absolutely no thought to future or past events or to others in any given situation.

Even if he was given candy, it would be forgotten (forever more) as soon as it was out of his sight.  He did not connect responses of other people to past events or behaviours.  Without any ability to control himself, he was unaware of “cause and effect“.  He didn’t even see “the effect”. He’d wonder why he was in trouble, react with violence, be consequenced, then move on (without learning anything to prevent recurrences).

As a special education teacher with more than 20 years of teaching experience, I can confidently state that these resources were tremendously helpful.  When challenging behaviors arose, my family members were able to identify the behavior (“You’re seem to have a bit of a Glassman acting in you” or “I’m sorry, that was a total Topic Twistermeister”).

Although there are a number of resources listed on the website, my spouse and I selected two story booklets and a teacher’s resource.  The first booklet is titled, “”You are a Social Detective”, the second is titled, Superflex”, and the teacher resource is titled, “Superflex… A Superhero Social Thinking Curriculum.”

Instructional Thinking Superflex Curriculum: Neurologically Gifted Social Thinking

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Hey! You have other kids, you know!

As many of you readers know, I have a little girl I refer to as Pip. She’s a year behind Stink in school. She pretty much worships the ground her brother walks on. This includes not wanting to give up sharing a room with him, laughing until her eyes pop out of her sockets at him, and giving a speech at school about why “Stink is My Hero.”

None of her adoration comes from feeling sorry for his tics. Quite the contrary, she just finds him hysterical because, well, he is.

I write this because I’ve had this huge shift lately in how I talk about my son. While yes, he does tic (and with that comes some special accommodations like diet and the whole “he has TS” speeches for new play dates and school years) he is not really what I’d consider special needs. There’s not a darn thing wrong with his academic or social life.

You know who does have special needs more and more? My daughter.

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There’s more to life than just TS

In his book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, Donald Miller chronicles his journey from apathy to outrageous purpose and joy. Per the website link above:

After writing a successful memoir, Donald Miller’s life stalled. During what should have been the height of his success, he found himself unwilling to get out of bed, avoiding responsibility, even questioning the meaning of life. But when two movie producers proposed turning his memoir into a movie, he found himself launched into a new story filled with risk, possibility, beauty and meaning.

“A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” chronicles Miller’s rare opportunity to edit his life into a great story, to reinvent himself so nobody shrugs their shoulders when the credits roll. Through heart-wrenching honesty and hilarious self-inspection, Donald Miller takes readers through the life that emerges when it turns from boring reality into meaningful narrative.

Miller goes from sleeping all day to riding his bike across America, from living in romantic daydreams to fearful encounters with love, from wasting his money to founding a nonprofit with a passionate cause. Guided by a host of outlandish but very real characters, Miller shows us how to get a second chance at life the first time around. “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” is a rare celebration of the beauty of life.

In reflecting yet again on this book, I am convicted in the truth our own life stories must be full of heroes, journeys and daring adventures. Unlike the movies, however, we don’t get to sit back from the comfort of our chairs and watch the hero. We get to be the hero, and that’s something entirely different, isn’t it?

Watching the hero you get to say, “Oh, wow, that action scene was epic! The special effects were awesome, and hair stayed perfectly coiffed, even during the knife fight!”

When you are the hero, suddenly the action is much more intense. You can’t rely on a trail guide. You have to bring your blade, cut down branches, forge new paths, cross scary rivers, and go face-to-face with giants. That’s not thrilling and inspiring. It’s not inspiring. It’s downright terrifying.

But mamas, isn’t this what makes you a hero in your child’s life? Continue reading

Skating in circles, not getting dizzy

pic for youSunday after church we took the kids ice skating. For those of you who live in beautiful wintry wonderlands, picture a frozen pond surrounded by snow capped trees and cardinals.

For those living in the city, like us, picture a mall with busy traffic on one side and a parking lot on the other. Picture kids in shorts and parents in tank tops. It wasn’t Norman Rockwell holidays In Dreamland, but we had a blast.

With Stink’s tics in high gear these days (lots of head shakes forward and back, side to side and strained speaking that sounds a bit screechy) I was only too happy to get on the ice and go round and round – getting that pent up “Ooooh, I wish it would stop” energy out.

Lord knows my head had been going in circles as well. “Oh, no, does he need to be put on medication finally? Should we not have taken him off the focus pills? Is it too much gluten? Do we need to go back to the supplements again? Acupuncture? Me going back to work?”

While all of these concerns are valid, I can’t let them define my life or his. The reason? His tics don’t bug him. They only bug me. Which, again, and I fully admit this, makes me a narcissist. BooIt’s why I’m bringing this up now – and I really want your opinion, as it relates to my book. (Yup, more about me. Narcissist!) Continue reading

Deep Brain Stimulation – Update on Matovic! (From my “Ticked” review)

A quick update to say that I heard from the wife of Jim Matovic — the man who had revolutionary Deep Brain Stimulation for his severe tics. My review of his book, written with Jim Fussell, is here.

She wrote the following comment on my “About” page at Happily Ticked Off. In case you only check this blog, I thought it was worth cutting and pasting as a post below. I will contact her, per her generous offer, and have her husband do a guest post on Happily Ticked Off.

In conclusion, let her lovely comment be an encouragement to all of you struggling with your sons’ or daughters’ tics. It is a testament to science and medicine and, most importantly, LOVE. Anything is possible. There is no need to fear. Something can ALWAYS be done to help your child. And while your baby might not warrant deep brain stimulation (though, thank heavens it is there if you need it), your child will always warrant full acceptance, support and encouragement for the gifts that exist well below the surface of a few tics and twitches.

The heart and soul, not the body, is what we must strive to embrace at all costs. And if you don’t always do that, because you are sad or depressed or defeated, you get to work on forgiveness. Because last I checked, you were never supposed to be the perfect parent. You are simply supposed to your child’s parent. And you are doing your best.

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