- Published on Tuesday, 06 September 2011 20:36
By Pam Crooke & Michelle Garcia Winner
From Brisbane to New Delhi to Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, our purpose during this summer's workshop schedule in Asia was to teach about Social Thinking, but, not surprisingly, we were the ones learning too!
Over the past several years, we've seen the roots and branches of Social Thinking spread throughout the world. We had theorized, from our work with different cultures in the US, that regions around the world would relate to the foundations of ST. Our presentations and interaction with people in Asia have confirmed this. In fact, we’ve found that the core social-emotional concepts are shared across countries and sub-cultures within cultures (Australian, Indian, Malaysian, Singaporean, Chinese, Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, affluent, impoverished, and differing levels of education).
Ideas such as:
I think about you
You think about me
I wonder what your motive is
I try and anticipate your emotions
You try to understand my emotions
I react and respond based on all my thoughts/feelings about myself... as well as other ideas seem to simply be a part of humanity. Yes! Of course, there are differences in the nuance of how different cultures express these concepts, but the underlying notion of figuring out how to share space with one another spans the globe.
While we certainly aren’t aware of many of the individual cultural nuances – audiences everywhere appreciate learning how to think more deeply about observing the subtleties of their own cultural dynamics in order to figure out how to overlay nuance-based lessons on top of Social Thinking fundamentals.
This year we’ve been to Denmark, Sweden, Argentina, Australia, India, Singapore, Hong Kong and the Philippines (in addition to the myriad of cities we visit annually in the US and Canada).
Here are some of our observations:
- Australia: Last year we spent a month in Australia and Social Thinking was very well received. Many described it as a “missing link” while others were frustrated that the information hadn’t come to them sooner. In fact, there has been a surge of interest in the past year from researchers and professionals who are building programs and measuring success. Some professionals expressed plans to come to the US for additional training and parents were relieved to sit side-by-side with local professionals. We were invited to return as soon as possible!
**An interesting note is that there is an assumption worldwide that English speaking countries are more advanced in their development of treatment strategies for social learning challenges, in part because most standardized tests and curriculums are published in English. However, we met many parents in the US, Australia, Canada and the UK who still feel a desperate need for more highly trained service providers in their community. As parents and professionals lament about their lack of training (which is every single conference we speak for across the world, in every city, no matter the location), it reminds us how new the concept of thinking about and describing social learning is for all of us.
- India: We visited both New Delhi and Bangalore (the Silicon Valley of India) and were given an enthusiastic welcome. The conferences were sponsored by a fairly new group called ABA India. This group heard about Social Thinking from a Canadian psychologist giving a local workshop. After hearing about Social Thinking, ABA India sent their secretary, Geetika Kapoor (psychologist), to attend one of Michelle’s conferences in the US. She immediately roped Michelle into making India part of the international itinerary. India was truly a life-changing experience.
Workshop attendees in both locations had a wide range of professionals, but also had an unusually high percentage of parents. India has a very large population and is believed to have a similar incidence of autism as the US, but many children are undiagnosed. And, while there are plenty of trained professionals who specialize in diagnosis, there are very few educated treatment professionals. In fact, Smita Awasthi, the president of ABA-India, was the first BCBA in India. We were pleased to find that this group is dedicated to learning about ways to develop comprehensive services using a variety of different treatment models (ABA, Social Thinking, Floortime). Many participants told us that Social Thinking was a big paradigm shift, but one that made sense. We were inspired by the level of commitment – especially those therapists who travelled all the way from Calcutta. We hope we get the opportunity to return and be part of their continued learning!
- Singapore: We have been to Singapore several times and were very happy to see that a core group of clinicians are continuing to use Social Thinking, although the concepts are still new to most. As is the case in many countries, schools in Singapore still struggle to establish adaptations and education for students who perform well on tests but have social learning challenges. Most of the participants in Singapore were private practice specialists, parents and faculty from international schools, with only 2 special educators and no mainstream teachers. An interesting note is that the US admires the high test scores typical in Singapore’s schools; however, locals reported a real lack of services to help academically bright students develop more functional life and social skills – a theme we heard throughout our travels.
- Malaysia: This was our 2nd trip to Malaysia where multiculturalism is the norm. To our delight – several University students were in the audience and brought a whole new level of enthusiasm for learning. The audience was very interactive and anxious to learn as much as possible! A number of professionals easily connected to Social Thinking because their core philosophy has been in relationship-based strategies. Others were surprised to learn about a treatment approach that isn’t strictly ABA. Social Thinking as a language-based, cognitive behavioral intervention was an interesting and exciting change. It was truly inspiring to be with a group so diverse in age, culture and religion - and yet – all were able to discuss the commonalities in social thought and behavior that bind us together as human beings.
This group had fun comparing the more US-based cultural teen version of greeting (e.g. teen: “what’s up?”) to how teens in other cultures mix with one another. Interestingly, many of the same underlying social rules apply! It has been through discussions like these, with audiences from around the world that we were able to see so many parts of the human social experience as common – including the desire to invest in core social emotional relationships with those who are familiar while establishing new relationships with others.
The next stop on our trip was Hong Kong and then onto the Philippines (picture below) where we learned more about the social learning process from our audiences. And, we will continue to share the common experience of exploring how similar we are regardless of politics, religion, race, culture and age.
We feel quite lucky to have this world-wide social experience; which not only serves to affirm the universal nature of Social Thinking, but also affirms our belief that so many people everywhere are helpful and caring.
©2012 Social Thinking Publishing - Michelle Garcia Winner www.socialthinking.com