Evidence-Based Practices

Research That Supports Social Thinking

Anyone who has heard Michelle speak or has read her materials knows she is not "politically correct." Michelle supports helping students learn concepts not readily incorporated into the school day or the inclusive environment of the mainstream classroom. She believes we have put the collective cart before the horse, in that we are all seeking "evidence" (data based research projects) to demonstrate efficacy in how to teach students better social skills. However, Michelle contends that as educators, counselors, psychologists, and diagnosticians, we have done little to ask questions related to "what are social skills and how do we best teach them to these smart kids?". Her book, Why Teach Social Thinking?, addresses this topic in a review of the literature and discussion now available on the topic. It has been described by numerous leaders in the field as a book that attempts to "answer questions most of us have only just started to realize we should be asking" (Prizant, Myles, Gray, Dunn-Buron, Prelock).

However, there is an emerging body of evidence about the techniques developed by Michelle. Dr. Pamela Crooke led a treatment study with speech and language graduate students from the University of Arizona, to explore if teaching core social thinking concepts with students with High Functioning Autism or Asperger Syndrome resulted in a measurable behavior change in a generalized environment.

The research described the large multiple baseline single-subject design study of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). The report examines effectiveness of teaching a social cognitive (Social Thinking) approach to six males with Asperger syndrome (AS) or High Functioning Autism (HFA). Data included are restricted to pre- post-treatment comparisons of verbal and non-verbal social behaviors. Structured treatment and semi-structured generalization sessions occurred over eight weeks. Results indicated significant changes from pre- to post- measures on both verbal/nonverbal “expected” and “unexpected” behaviors, significant increases in the subcategories of “expected verbal”, “listening/thinking with eyes”, and “initiations”, and robust decreases in the subcategories of “unexpected-verbal” and “unexpected-nonverbal”. Importance of social cognitive approaches for children AS and HFA is discussed.

Research and related articles supporting Social Thinking foundational concepts

Crooke, P.J., Hendrix, R.E., Rachman, J.Y., (2007) Brief Report: Measuring the Effectiveness of Teaching Social Thinking to Children with Asperger Syndrome (AS) and High Functioning Autism (HFA). Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, Online publication: DOI 10.1007/s10803-007-0466-1

Koning, C, Magill-Evans, J., Volden, J., Dick, B. (2008) Efficacy of cognitive behavior therapy-based social skills intervention for school-aged boys with autism spectrum disorders. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 7 (10), pp. 1282-1290.

Lee, K Y S, Lui, A.L.Y, Kan, P.P.K, Luke, K.L, Mak, Y.M, Cheung, P.M.P, Cheng, L; Wong, I (2009) A Case Series on the Social Thinking Training of Mainstreamed Secondary School Students with High-functioning Autism, Hong Kong Journal of Mental Health 35: 10-17.

Lopata, C, Thomeer, Marcus L., Volker, M., & Nida, R. "Effectiveness of a Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment on the Social Behaviors of Children with Asperger Disorder." Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities 21, no. 4 (2006): 237-244.

Winner, M.G. & Crooke, P. J. (2009) Social Thinking®: A Developmental Treatment Approach for Students with Social Learning/Social Pragmatic Challenges, Perspectives on Language Learning and Education: 16 (2); 62-69

Winner, M. G. & Crooke, P. (2011) Thinking about Thinking: Social Communication for adolescents with Autism. ASHA Leader Magazine, MD.

Winner, M.G., Crooke, P.J., & Madrigal, S. (2010) It's a Girl Thing or Is it?: Social Thinking and Social Skills in Girls, Teens, and Women with Social Learning Issues, Autism Asperger Digest, 2010.

Furthermore, other graduate students across the United States and in Hong Kong are exploring research projects related to Michelle's work. See other's research results

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

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