Evaluation and Assessment of Social Functioning and Social Thinking

Across the fields of psychology, education, speech and language evaluations, IQ tests and other standardized tests are usually inadequate for assessing the depth and complexity of a social learning disability. A child’s ability to do well on most standardized testing in no way proves or disproves the possibility that he or she may have a significant learning disability related to social thinking.

The reason that traditional standardized tests do not illuminate deficits in this area is that these tests must be highly structured in order to cleanly measure the specific skills it was designed to evaluate. However, social cognition requires the complex integration of multiple skills, simultaneously or in seconds. Social thinking is a synergistic, dynamic process, the outcome of which affects related social behavioral responses.

Linear standardized tests cannot reveal the complexity of social thought required to think through and engage in these complex tasks such as having conversations, actively sustaining group play, participating in classroom discussions and working as part of a group in the classroom.

Another critical problem with standardized tests is that they do not require students to rapidly respond to socially based test prompts, such as interpretation of language meaning or idioms, even though in reality if it takes a person longer than 2 to 3 seconds to respond in a communicative interaction then we consider the communication to have broken down.

To allow other methods for exploring the depth and complexity of social thinking and related social skills, Michelle Garcia Winner created a series of informal social cognitive/social pragmatic assessment tasks. These tasks appear to be more qualitative in how they capture students social processing and related responses. The fact that the assessment tasks are also dynamic allows the examiner to follow a student through the social thinking and learning process to see how they problem solve specific situations.

These issues are explored in more depth, with some examples of recommended evaluation ideas, in these articles:

  1. Assessment of Social Cognition and Related Skills
  2. Double Interview Study with Older Kids (PDF download)
  3. The Double Interview Task: Assessing the Social Communication of Children with Asperger Syndrome (PDF download)
  4. Developing Pragmatic Language Use in Adolescents with Asperger Syndrome and High Functioning Autism Using Bridging Comments and Questions

Books with information related to the topic include:

Thinking About YOU Thinking About ME, 2nd Edition

©2012 Social Thinking Publishing - Michelle Garcia Winner  www.socialthinking.com