- Published on Thursday, 05 May 2011 08:48
I received an email from a consultant practicing in public schools (special education) and homes. In his email he expressed questions he had about the Social Thinking program to better understand the concepts used in it as well as other clarification questions.
In answering his email I realized how these questions might arise with many others; thus I have posted both his set of questions and my response to them.
- Empirical evidence supporting the efficacy of Social Thinking® is weak. Why do you not spend more of your time conducting research to document efficacy prior to selling it to parents and professionals as effective?
- Your website makes this statement: "Social Thinking® is required prior to the development of social skills". Does this mean that your program, a registered trademark, is a necessary prerequisite to the ability to learn the skills we label social?
- Your website makes this statement: "In neurotypical (so-called normal-thinking) people, social thinking is hard-wired at birth". Do you mean Social Thinking (the registered trademark) is hard-wired in newborns' brains or that social thinking (generic) is hard-wired in newborns' brains? Whichever the answer, what evidence supports this claim?
Social Thinking® (ST) is a treatment methodology based on the definition of evidence based practices in the field of speech pathology , psychology, etc. Which basically describes EBP as treatments that utilize 3 core tenants:
1. Utilizing best evidence available
2. Strong clinical experience and
3. Consideration of parent/family values.
This definition is in contrast to NCLB's more SBR (scientifically based research), which they then refer to as what they consider EBP. As many have written about in journal articles, it is very, very difficult (impossible) to use the government's standard of SBR when creating individually based programs for students with ASD due to this heterogeneous population. There is no way to make treatment for the complications of those with social learning challenges an easy sound bite, nor can we say all treatments that have strong research are good for all kids.
Try not to confuse ST® with the descriptive phrase social thinking. Social thinking is the user friendly term for social cognition. There is very strong empirical research demonstrating such important neurologically based concepts such as joint attention, which happens to be the doorway to ToM. ST® has only recently become trademarked and it started out as simply a descriptive term to describe the social thinking process upon which we perform our social behaviors (social skills). I do not claim that the public can only use ST® to treat their folks, what I am doing is attempting to educate the masses that we engage in active social thinking in order to consider how to interpret, react and respond to others. This is in contrast to having the public (educators, counselors, parents, administrators, etc.) think that you can simply go teach social skills and that will generalize effectively into rampant, broad changes in social functioning for our socially challenged folks. The research from the ABA community has a consistent problem associated with it: the students struggle to generalize when taught social skills simply through a skills -reinforcement type model.
People can use any number of treatments to encourage social cognitive growth, they don't need to only use ST. ST is based on strong developmental research as well as research studying specifically the learning needs of those with social cognitive deficits. We have tried to create materials the public can use to take this seriously complex information and teach it in more concrete ways. Furthermore, much of what we teach relates to helping educators understand their own social learning process.
ST became trademarked only because the public has adopted this term to refer specifically to using my treatment methodologies and some were using this term to say they were teaching my methodologies, but we found they were not teaching them well and some were using it to simply market themselves without even understanding what ST stood for. Hence to help keep quality controls wrapped around this methodology we trademarked it; now we can dissuade people from using this term especially when they are not implementing their commercial programs effectively.
I never set out to be nationally known or create a treatment model people would seek out. I started to create this when I saw the needs our higher functioning students had which were far different from our lower functioning students I had worked with for years.
Why doesn't ST have stronger empirical research? ...because we are building the plane while we are flying it. The kids are here now. We are encouraged by the many research studies we hear are underway. The only way to develop a treatment approach is to try it out. I provide so much free information on my website to help people learn basic information about ST without having to buy anything.
©2012 Social Thinking Publishing - Michelle Garcia Winner www.socialthinking.com