Michelle Garcia Winner, who a decade ago started social thinking as a treatment approach for students with social and communication challenges, will update you on this instructional and treatment approach through her blog. You can bookmark the blog and subscribe it through a newsfeed (adding it to Favorites in Explorer or "Subscribe" in Firefox under Bookmarks or clicking on the blue icon in the address bar) or subscribe to Michelle's Social Thinking newsletter to get updates on new postings. We also will post new blogs on our Facebook page. You can link to the blog on your website and in emails. Please also feel free to browse the articles on the left for more on specific topics!
- Published on Saturday, 28 May 2011 09:12
The following are some questions from different employers I have received about adults in the work world with AS. While we know that there are adults with AS at many workplaces without the following problems (many in fact!), I thought I would share my thoughts on the following questions:
Is there an average work week that most AS adults are best suited to work?
People with AS are a really mixed group. They have different personalities, skills, abilities, etc., so your experience with this one gentleman likely will not be the same set of challenges you will experience with another person with AS. Some can only handle a 20 hour or so week and others are fully productive with 40. Read our article on the Social Thinking-Social Communication Profile.
- 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?
- Published on Wednesday, 20 April 2011 11:41
The following are some thoughtful words from a psychologist to a 'social thinking clinician' regarding two teen clients who are struggling to benefit from treatment. I know most parents are working extremely hard to set limits and that not all children respond even if parents try! These parents should not read the below blog!!
This article is about the parents who are not sure if they should set limits or have clear consequences for desired and undesireable behavior, yet would like their children, adolescents or young adults to be rid of their behavior problems.
- Published on Tuesday, 01 February 2011 09:12
Over the years, I observed so many students get upset by the fact they had “autism” or “Asperger’s Syndrome” or “ADHD” and in as much as they could verbalize these terms aloud they still didn’t seem to understand what their learning challenges actually were.
I also observed many adults explaining to students that the reason they were having difficulty socializing, studying, and learning was that they had “autism” or “Asperger’s Syndrome”, or “ADHD.” I thought this was a really abstract way of explaining to a student with limited abstract thinking how best to understand their own learning challenges. I also have observed that for many of our smart but socially not-in-step students, that they were using their label as an excuse for not working at learning new ideas; they interpreted the fact that they had a diagnostic label as a reason to not continue to learn.
I was also inspired by the writings of those who describe learning abilities and challenges given the framework that each of us have strengths and weaknesses with regards to our own brain’s design of our multiple intelligences (See books by Dr. Mel Levine and Howard Gardner).
- Published on Monday, 03 January 2011 09:38
Guest Blog by Sean Sweeney, CCC-SLP
Author of the blog SpeechTechie: Looking at Technology Through a Language Lens, which won the 2010 Best New Edublog Award
I was very happy during the hustle and bustle of ASHA Convention to have had a few minutes to chat with Michelle about some exciting and fun (not to mention free) web-based tools that have great potential to complement and extend social thinking instruction. That chat led to this guest post!
As we teach key concepts in the social thinking curriculum, technology can provide us with yet another means to help kids apply vocabulary in the course of a very motivating (especially for our population) activity. Technology tools such as comic and video creators provide the additional benefit of taking something that is rather fleeting and providing a visual and replicable example that in many cases is easily sharable with parents. Implementing these short technology projects with kids while we are introducing skills also has the added advantage of working at a bit of distance from the kids’ own unexpected behaviors. A project we might create with kids thus provides a frame of reference for more direct cues as we progress. Many tech tools with potential for social thinking instruction are quite playful and easy to use, and are a good activity for parents and their children to explore together!
- Published on Monday, 15 November 2010 09:23
While I have continued to review research since delving into what I ended up naming Social Thinking® in 1995, the last time I did a comprehensive research review, as it related to my ILAUGH model of Social Cognition, was in the year 2000. Ten years later it is exciting to see the trends in research as they are very much validating the clinical theories put forward in my early books (Inside Out: What Makes Persons with Social Cognitive Deficits Tick, 2000; Thinking About You Thinking About Me, 1st edition, 2002). One example of this is in 2002 I postulated that while the researchers are exploring the meaning and arguing to some degree the relevance of each of the core theories related to ASD, Theory of Mind, executive functioning and central coherence theory, I was observing my students had learning issues related to all three of these issues. It was not one problem, but many problems working in tandem. The research now shows that to be quite evident (Sodian & Frith, 2008; Pelicano, 2010)
As I finish writing a major new project that hopefully will be published in about a year, I’m doing an extensive review of the research. Three articles that have caught my attention relate to meta-analysis of social skills intervention research. A “meta-analysis” is an analysis of the published research to draw conclusions more holistically from the trends being discovered from studying the research results in mass, rather than focusing on the results of a singular study.
- Published on Friday, 03 September 2010 15:44
By Michelle Garcia Winner and Chris Abildgaard
There is a tendency when exploring treatment options to build walls and think in the black and white. As we have moved from developing treatment with people with classical autism to exploring and developing treatments for the entire autism spectrum and related disabilities, we have to shift from thinking there is one way to treat by embracing a range of approaches to better meet the range of challenges our students and adults experience across the “spectrum.”
One’s language and cognitive abilities matter greatly when exploring methods of intervention or “treatment”. The huge shift in discussing treatment for those with “Autism” to those on the “Autism Spectrum” is really about understanding how to design programs for students with different abilities in language, cognition, sensory and perspective taking abilities.
- Published on Friday, 04 June 2010 10:06
I was recently asked a question:
“What I'd like to know is how you assess need and measure progress over time. I have many of the books and have looked through and read parts of all of them, but haven't seen anything that fits my need. Our special ed. director would like to have some data to show that these groups have been successful.”
Here are some thoughts:
- Published on Wednesday, 07 April 2010 06:52
When our kids are in preschool there are tons of books, parent support groups, play groups, field trips and play dates. When our kids get older all of that goes away, during some of our hardest parenting years we have the fewest networks and support systems... and through this process our children are magically supposed to evolve from kids to adults. My own two neurotypical daughters have continued to teach me about what they needed me to teach them to help them prepare for life as adults. Having worked with many adults with social thinking challenges they have also taught me about how they handled this transition. The lessons I have learned through watching my daughters and my clients' transitions into adulthood and abilities to sustain themselves as adults are these:
- Published on Monday, 22 February 2010 17:00
I was recently asked to write about the social skills kids need to have acquired to benefit more fully from an integrated setting. While this is a huge question I will write some basic thoughts on this concept.
Many of you who are familiar with my work know that I talk about the social complexities of the classroom learning environment. While we often only teach social skills for the context of playing or conversing the reality is that students use social thinking and related social skills every moment they are around people including more structured environments like classrooms. While I know our political education plan is quick to advocate the inclusion of all kids into “integrated” settings as much as possible, I encourage “thoughtful inclusion” rather than making blanket statements that “all kids should be included”. I think kids with social learning challenges have extraordinary problems with processing social information “in mass”. These challenges are far beyond the challenges of students with more typical learning disabilities. I think that much of the research on inclusion of special needs kids fails to really look specifically at the inclusion of kids with social learning challenges and how much they are learning of a functional nature of how to participate with others given the amount of cueing and support (Paraprofessionals helping to complete their work for them, etc.) in this environment. Now take what I am saying here with the understanding that I have gone to great lengths to explore different levels of the social mind in other articles on my website, so I am not making blanket statement here. It is all about really thinking about the student and what we are REALLY teaching them so they can learn to function as more independent, self-regulated students and then adults who can also have command of academic information (as much as their brains allow them to learn).
- Published on Wednesday, 27 January 2010 15:01
More Superflexible Thinking on my part… - by Stephanie Madrigal
The Superflex curriculum was primarily designed for the elementary age children; however, many educators have come up at workshops to tell us that they have successfully introduced Superflex with their middle school students or that they have changed the characters adapting them into more age appropriate characters or even used an anime spin which many middle school students are into. As we know all students are different in how they may respond to this curriculum. Most students find it fun while some think it is boring or maybe too childish for them.
- Published on Wednesday, 06 January 2010 12:53
by Stephanie Madrigal, therapist at Social Thinking and author of Superflex (Part 1 of 2 part post)
Superflex: A Superhero Social Thinking Curriculum, ironically, was developed as I had to work on my own rigid thinking in trying to work with one of my students! I began working with a student, Eric, individually, because he was so rigid and did not have the skills, to work in a group setting. As I quickly realized, he and I were going nowhere fast. He was extremely rigid and had difficulty following anyone else’s plans and had huge meltdowns when things did not go his way. So after a couple of weeks of banging my head against the wall because I could not figure out a way to reach him, I remembered that he liked Superheroes. Hmmm… do I stick to my own ideas and lessons that I had already outlined for his treatment? I already knew the answer to this question--No way! I needed to think outside the box with him and find something that would motivate him or I was not going to be able to teach him.
So the next week, before Eric’s session, I wrote, in big letters on the white board, "Superflex a Social Thinking Superhero!" Then, once he entered the room, I just waited to see if he noticed. It was only a few seconds before he walked over to the board and asked, “Who is this?” In my confident tone, I responded, “Superflex! Haven’t you heard of this Superhero before?” I proceeded to explain that this Superhero was a little different than most he had learned about. “Superflex is a superhero that hangs out in our brain and helps us to think about thinking about others, being flexible and making good choices,” I said. “However, like any other Superhero, Superflex has a nemesis and his name is Rock Brain!” I can remember consciously thinking at this point, “Is he really letting me talk about this with him?” he was completely intrigued with this concept. So, of course, I continued…”Rock Brain is that character that also lives in our brain, and attempts to defeat Superflex by trying to prevent our flexible thinking.” Rock Brain makes us get stuck on what we want to do, insisting on doing things only one way, our way and does not let us see things from another’s point of view.” Eric quickly agreed with this assessment of Rock Brain’s powers and then proceeded to tell me that Rock Brain was active in his brain a lot except, “He was not made out of rock, he was made out of titanium!”
- Published on Thursday, 10 December 2009 12:42
In the first blog on anxiety (please read first), we concluded with how the "Spiral of Social Success" can work for your students if you talk to them along these lines:
- You will encounter some stress approaching this situation that you are used to bailing out of from your anxiety. However, instead of starting by doubting yourself, explore what strategies you can use to help yourself deal with the uncomfortable social situation.
- Use your inner coach to remind yourself how much better you will feel once you use your strategies, that you are capable of using these strategies as well as what the strategies are to use.
- You feel better about yourself when you see yourself demonstrating your abilities or social competencies.
- This encourages your to implement the use of the strategies.
- Resulting in the fact you are training your brain that "you can do it" better than you have done it before!
Here's how this looks:
- Published on Friday, 04 December 2009 09:23
The second part of this blog is now posted, but please start here...
An astute clinician I have worked with for years, Randi Dodge, strongly encouraged our team to explore anxiety as part of our social thinking treatments for higher-functioning autism spectrum disorders, ADHD and similar diagnoses. While we had all come to realize we had been teaching strategies to reduce anxiety, we were not talking about “anxiety” and really starting at its impact on Social Thinking/social learning because, quite frankly, we are mostly a group of speech-language pathologists and that seemed to be crossing into the domain of mental health. However, the more Randi brought in materials for us to review about anxiety, the more we began to focus on how strong a role anxiety plays in the hearts and minds of our higher level students and how this affects their abilities to demonstrate their own improved social thinking to others. For those of you familiar with my work, you know that I encourage a very interdisciplinary approach with our students. Meaning, we all have to learn about social pragmatics, sensory systems, emotional regulation, counseling, behaviorism, educational demands, etc., to work with our students. As much as we try to uniquely assess a student using these different disciplines, they learn as whole people!
- Published on Wednesday, 04 November 2009 21:11
Where to start when using our child-centered products, Social Detective and Superflex?
We are thrilled you like Superflex and are finding it so helpful. The response to this superhero comic book curriculum has literally been overwhelming.
I have recently begun to find the words to explain the evolution of the teachings of Social Thinking...
Superflex is getting great feedback on how it gets kids onboard and motivated to look at their own behaviors... the purpose of Superflex is to teach students self-awareness, self-monitoring and self-control using related strategies initially introduced in our core Social Thinking books, Think Social curriculum, Thinking About You Thinking About Me, etc.
We then released the Social Detective comic book to focus on the Social Thinking Vocabulary, which is essential to carry across the school and home day; this book is often the starting place for direct work with our students. There has been a remarkably broad range of classroom teachers, principals, parents and therapists who are finding the magic of our Social Detective and Superflex books for introducing Social Thinking concepts to students, many of whom are "neurotypical"!
- Published on Thursday, 08 October 2009 13:20
Finally, in the third part of this blog on the transition to adulthood, I felt a letter I received from a parent put a human face to the ideas on this topic... and gave the reason I write this blog, for the letter was in response to one of my earlier blogs. (Probably best to read the first part and the second part of this blog first.) Personally identifiable information has been changed.
Letter from a parent:
When we began to look at colleges for Mike, the only people who had written colleges were Lars Perner, Temple Grandin, and maybe Stephen Shore. The only book I was able to find was the Guide to Colleges for Students with Learning Disabilities.
- Published on Thursday, 01 October 2009 02:01
This is the second part of a three-part blog. If you haven't read the first part of this blog, you might want to do so...
The following is a list of questions to explore related to a student when they are in mid-high school to help consider what realistic options are for the next step post-graduation. Rarely have the students I have observed "pulled it together" in their junior and senior years of high school, given the tremendous increasing pressures they feel as they start to realize they will be graduating. While we want to include the student in these discussions, we also have to realize that many of our students cannot imagine something they have not experienced. Many students assure their parents they will figure it all out once they go to college; this is called "talking the talk". Until our students demonstrate they can understand the action plans they need to demonstrate in order to show themselves and us they are "walking the walk", it is overly optimistic to trust our students know how to problem solve what their next step past graduation should be. While the "next step" should not discount what the student is saying he/she wants to do, they can only really be given that choice after they have been exposed to multiple post-high school options.
Consider these questions:
1. Does the student keep track of his own homework assignments?
2. Does he create and implement plans, even if he doesn't do them to perfection that are reasonable for working through his short term and long term homework assignments?
3. Does he know how to ask for help?
4. Does he understand how to manage his/her anxiety when dealing with a stressful day? Or does he require adult intervention for him/her to implement self-calming strategies?
- Published on Monday, 14 September 2009 14:50
The concepts of teaching Social Thinking and related social skills were developed for students with social learning challenges who were spending much of their day in a mainstream setting. This fall I celebrate my 10th anniversary of speaking about these concepts in front of a national audience. As the years have passed, not only have I started to dye my hair but the concepts have deepened and the teaching strategies multiplied. One of the very cool thing is that Social Thinking concepts and strategies are now being embraced by inspired mainstream teachers who realize they need to teach more explicit social concepts to all students. While the ILAUGH model has brought awareness of what it takes to be a social thinker, it is really the more practical use of the Social Thinking Vocabulary and then Stephanie Madrigal's creative discovery of using “Superflex” to work against “Rockbrain” that has been so appealing to mainstream teachers. This is lovely in many ways:
- Published on Sunday, 13 September 2009 17:00
It's no secret that our students with social learning challenges (Autism Spectrum Disorders; ADHD, NVLD, undiagnosed murky kid...) struggle through various aspects of their education. Whether their struggles are due to difficulties establishing peer based social relationships, completing academic assignments or both, our kids have not had it easy. Given a lack of development in the pathways to participating in related aspects of a school day that most of us develop intuitively (e.g., social thinking and related social skills, organizational skills, inferencing and synthesizing information, etc.), all persons who have come in direct contact with our students have had to think out of the box to develop more lessons and opportunities for learning explicitly what neurotypical students learn mostly implicitly. It's not this "easy" for our kids with social learning challenges, nor is it easy for their parents or their teachers.
I have seen too many "bright" kids with Asperger Syndrome, high functioning autism and ADHD march off to college programs only to fall apart and drop out. Stewing in anxiety and depression a number of our students don't take steps to progress in their learning and independence, they instead slip into dysfunction with few safety nets to catch them.
I think a lot about how to avoid this descent for those who experience it.
- Published on Sunday, 28 June 2009 17:00
When I started working for a high school district in 1995, one of the first things I noticed about my students with social learning challenges was that there appeared to be a strong association with weak written expression skills. In fact, behavior and mental health problems in the form of anxiety and bouts of frustration were detected during tasks requiring written expression. My knowledge about the problem has come a long way from my early observations but the problems related to written expression can be profound for some of our students.
- Published on Thursday, 28 May 2009 09:34
"I don't care!" is a heavy topic to cover in a blog but here is my shot at it:
Many kids say "I don't care," "I don't want friends," "I don't like people," etc. I have heard these lines from elementary kids through adolescents. I rarely hear these from adults.
Here is my spin on this. Our kids struggle to do something that appears so easy and seamless to everyone else. Those that are "higher functioning" begin to notice that they are not fitting in, but they don't know how to make it right. At times our students have sat in "friendship groups" that didn't teach them what they needed to know, or the message was that "using good social skills" means you have friends but they sat in the group and they still don't have friends. They start to build walls around themselves and then fortresses: they need to protect themselves from thinking that they lack worth since they lack friendships. (Friendships do in fact help to validate our existence.)
- Published on Wednesday, 13 May 2009 17:00
Bright kids who have social-learning difficulties often (or usually!) experience a "home/school paradox." This question from a parent describes this well:
I have an 8-year old Aspie son mainstreamed in a high-performing public school who is, according to IQ, Raven's and state tests, gifted, but he only performs above average in class, unlike his typical gifted peers who get selected for GATE programs because of their superior classroom performance. At home, he does amazing things, but not in class. Is it a lack of motivation -- his own or the teacher's? Is it simply a "Hidden Curriculum" issue?
Here's my take:
- Published on Wednesday, 25 March 2009 17:00
Why is a book on the Holocaust being sold through our publishing company? To begin with, this is a book that was being written as I grew up. My dad is the Holocaust survivor described in this book, and his story of coming to terms with it is really in part a major story of my life. My mom was a writer; my dad had been out of "the camps," as we called them at home, about 11 years when he met my mom. They fell in love and married quickly. Little did my 1950s mom realize that she was going to "raising her husband" out of the camp experience and the related loss of his entire family, while she was also raising us three kids.
- Published on Wednesday, 25 March 2009 17:00
Think Social Publishing will not typically publish books unrelated directly to the topic of social thinking, but when my dad requested I help him get his book back into print, how was I to refuse? My childhood was very much about my mom helping my dad to recover from the Holocaust.
- Published on Wednesday, 25 March 2009 17:00
Change is hard work. And change is all about being a teen. Boundaries are tested, conformity is rebelled against. I recently responded to an email about a challenging teen. The question helped me focus on the issues that you might face as you work with and live with your own teens.
- Published on Wednesday, 11 February 2009 16:00
Due to concerns from some parents about the misuse of the term "weird thoughts" by adult teachers with their students, we have revised our definition of this concept in our You Are A Social Detective book. In the next printing of the book, the concept "weird thought" will be changed to "uncomfortable thought." Please read the updated definition and note to parents and professionals using these concepts.
- Published on Monday, 02 February 2009 14:23
I recently wrote an introduction to a booklet of mine that is being translated into Chinese for educators and parents in Hong Kong. The booklet summarizes the basic concepts of Social Thinking and the introduction shows how these concepts span cultures. I thought I would share the introduction with you...
- Published on Thursday, 08 January 2009 11:55
A practitioner recently asked me about the fact that she could get her 5 and 6 year olds to use the social thinking vocabulary, but they still weren't changing their behavior. Does this mean that they can't really learn to change their behavior?
- Published on Monday, 22 December 2008 12:44
It seems fitting this time of year to explore what the "gift of giving" means. Our free markets would like us to believe this relates to the act of buying merchandise for others; that this is what we define as the best form of a "present". However, the unspoken expectation is not in the gift itself, but in the delight we have giving a gift that makes someone feel good...and the gift need not be of materialistic.
- Published on Thursday, 11 December 2008 16:00
Social thinking is wrapped around holiday celebrations. An article that ran in my local newspaper this week spoke about how careful we have to be about the "clever" advertising of "sales". What is stated is not necessarily to be believed. Consumers beware. For example, a popular chain store advertised "free $25.00 in shopping" but the fine print expressed that this was only if you first spent $100.00. Another store said "25% off the entire store" in large print, but the fine print said "on any purchases over $300.00."
In our society "read the fine print" means: know the deal is never quite as good in reality as it sounds on the surface.
- Published on Thursday, 20 November 2008 12:05
"That has nothing to do with me!" is a common thought, if not an expressed concern, of many of our students. Students with social learning challenges have unique weaknesses in perspective taking when compared to their like IQ peer group.
Perspective taking weaknesses come in many different sizes (see my article, "The Perspective Taking Spectrum"), but one common trait I have noticed is that for all of our students they need to explore lessons that are directly related to their own experiences. I call this "Inside Out Teaching."
- Published on Wednesday, 12 November 2008 16:00
I work closely with two colleagues, Stephanie Madrigal (primary author of Superflex: A Social Thinking Superhero Curriculum) and Dr. Pamela Crooke (co-author of You Are You a Social Detective). We now comprise the social thinking team that continues to create new ways to understand and teach about social learning. All three of us travel and give workshops, work in our Social Thinking Clinic in San Jose, CA, and create products to inform the public about what we have learned. While we are not technically doing research, we are constantly creating and testing our theories with our student and adult clients.
- Published on Thursday, 06 November 2008 16:07
Thinking about thinking; this has become a focused aspect of my life. Fascinating to watch people think and then see how they respond to those thoughts. The presidential debates are a perfect case in point. Everyone in the audience was well dressed and well behaved, but I can't imagine there was a single person listening to the debate who did not have some irritated or even angry thought based on what was being said (or not said!). Even the candidates who were slinging mud (very subtly) at each other stayed composed; smirking when criticized but not showing sadness or obvious anger. How did everyone in that room learn such social self-control? From the audience to the candidates, from the pundits to the camera operators, no one yelled out "enough already; we can't stand to hear another put-down!", but that doesn't mean that most people didn't think that!