About Social Thinking

What is Social Thinking

Core to our teachings of Social Thinking, we, parents and professionals, must avoid assumption of what our students understand when it comes to their social knowledge and related social skills. Using Social Thinking’s teaching tools, we teach explicitly what most people are expected to learn implicitly. We do not assume that a person with normal to high intelligence and solid language skills understands the dynamics of social engagement. For this reason we explode the social code. In this video-clip on teaching students to think with their eyes,  we help our students to think about “eye contact” in a much more meaningful manner.


Our mission is to provide practical frameworks, strategies and products to teach social problem solving, social emotional interpretation and social skills across schools, homes, communities and workplaces across the lifespan and around the globe.

Social Thinking was not started from a research question or funded through a hospital or University. It emerged from Michelle Garcia Winner’s desire to help her high school students and their teachers/parents develop deeper understanding of what it means to learn to use “social skills” by studying social learning processes. Today Social Thinking is a methodology based on the evidence that utilizes frameworks and related strategies to teach persons of all ages.  It is best used with people who use language to learn as they explore how we all think about the social thinking process.

We have created a range of social learning concepts and strategies that can be of benefit to all people who have solid to strong learning and language skills, regardless of diagnostic label.

While our strategies can be used with people with a range of diagnostic labels, we do not apply strategies based on a student's label or lack of diagnostic label.  Our philosophy is that we do not treat people's labels, instead we teach people about their own social learning, social skills and the social emotional expectations of others.

Some of the many diagnostic labels associated with social learning challenges include but are not limited to: Asperger’s Syndrome, ASD, Social Communication Disorder, Autism, High-functioning autism, PDD-NOS, ADHD/ADD, Non-verbal learning disability, Specific Language Impairment, Learning disabilities, TBI- Traumatic, Brain Injury, Velocardial Facial Syndrome, Down Syndrome, Prader Willi Syndrome, Social Phobia, Social Anxiety, Anxiety, Depression and many more. Our strategies also benefit those with no diagnostic labels at all!  


Social Thinking Training & Speakers' Collaborative (STTSC)

STTSC is a team of professionals, all of whom are experienced teachers, clinicians or counselors. The team is led by Michelle Garcia Winner (founder of Social Thinking) and Dr. Pamela Crooke; who have hand-picked the other members of the STTSC from regions around the USA. The Mission of the STTSC is to provide evidence based information and practical strategies for parents, professionals, family members, children/students as well as adults living with social learning challenges to be used in schools, homes, the community as well as across work settings. The collaborative members provide all-day conference trainings as well as customized on-going hourly trainings; they share practical strategies related to social learning across a large range of content and contexts in a down to earth and engaging manner.

Michelle Garcia Winner

Michelle Garcia Winner

Founder & CEO Social Thinking, M.A., CCC-SLP

Michelle Garcia Winner, MA, CCC-SLP specializes in the treatment of individuals with social learning challenges and is the founder and CEO of Social Thinking®, a company dedicated to helping individuals from four through adulthood develop their social competencies to meet their personal social goals. Michelle coined the term “Social Thinking” in the mid-1990s and since that time has created numerous unique treatment frameworks and curricula that help educators, clinicians, professionals of all types, and parents/family members appreciate that social capabilities are integral to a person’s success in life, socially, academically, and professionally.

Michelle maintains a private practice, The Center for Social Thinking, in Santa Clara, California, where she works with clients who continue to teach and inspire her. She travels globally presenting courses on the Social Thinking Methodology, an evidence-based approach she created that she continues to evolve and expand on. Michelle helps to develop educational programs, consults with and trains families and schools, and is a guiding presence with a wide range of professionals, politicians, and businesses on the topic of social emotional competencies. She is a prolific writer and has written and/or co-authored more than 40 books and over 100 articles about the Social Thinking Methodology.

Michelle receives accolades for her energetic and educational conference presentations, as well as her down-to-earth approach to teaching social competencies. The strength of Michelle's work is her ability to break down abstract social concepts and teach them in practical, concrete ways to help people improve their social problem solving abilities and social responses.

Career Summary

Michelle’s interest in autism while attending the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 1979 became the catalyst for becoming a speech language pathologist (SLP). Her first two mentors in the field were the late Dr. Carol Prutting (an early pioneer in the study of social pragmatics) and Dr. Robert Koegel (founder of Pivotal Response Therapy, aligned with ABA). While attending graduate school at Indiana University, Bloomington she became involved in the Indiana Resource Center for Autism (IRCA) under the leadership of Nancy Dalrymple, who became another strong mentor for Michelle. At IRCA in the 1980s, Michelle worked extensively with teens and young adults who would by today’s standard be referred to as “classically autistic.” Her students experienced significant intellectual learning challenges, weak speech/language development, and very limited social learning abilities. Michelle excelled at combining her knowledge of communication with behaviorism to help her more cognitively challenged students develop basic functional communication and social skills through behavioral teachings.


After returning home to California in the late 1980s, Michelle transitioned to working in hospitals and post-acute hospital rehabilitation centers with neurotypical learners who suffered from head injuries or strokes. There she learned about higher-level brain functioning and cognitive rehabilitation. In 1995, her career transitioned once more when she became the SLP for a public high school district. Her caseload was comprised of many older students who had relatively strong intelligence and language, but who lacked more refined social communication skills. The Social Thinking Methodology was born out of necessity as a way to reach those “bright but socially clueless students” who needed more information about how to navigate the social world than just memorizing dialogue to use in conversation. They needed to know why they should bother to converse at all, or even interact with others in their environment. The Social Thinking Methodology was born!


Michelle opened her private practice, the Center for Social Thinking, in 1998 and was met with high demand that continues to rise to this day. Trained professionals work with individuals ages 4 through adulthood in individual and group settings. Michelle continues to carry an active caseload of clients, in addition to consulting with families and schools on the Social Thinking Methodology and designing programs tailored to the individual’s needs. Michelle also started the company now called Social Thinking Publishing, Inc. to handle the growing public speaking demand from the national and international stage, as well as to publish her and others’ books on the Social Thinking Methodology. Michelle has written and/or co-authored more than 20 books on Social Thinking and her work is being applied not only to persons with higher-functioning autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, ADD/ADHD, and related disabilities, but also more broadly to students in mainstream classrooms and to adults in vocational and professional settings in the U.S. and abroad.



In 2016, her approach led, a leading national nonprofit organization, to call Michelle, "...the leading expert in the field of social skills."


In 2008, Michelle was honored with a Congressional Special Recognition Award for her groundbreaking work in the field of social learning.


" of my favorite authors in the field of teaching emotional intelligence. Michelle Garcia Winner has pioneered some very helpful ways of conceptualizing and helping educators understand the social challenges that students on the autism spectrum face." - Stephan Borgman, 2010, Psychology Today, "Spectrum Solutions"



To check out the Social Thinking Research homepage, click here.


Research published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders supports using Social Thinking Vocabulary with individuals with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. Learn more here.



Michelle lives in San Jose, CA with her partner and has two daughters, Heidi and Robyn.


Financial Disclosure

Financial: Michelle Garcia Winner is employed by Think Social Publishing, Inc. as an author/speaker and receives compensation for her presentations as well as the sale of her books and by the Social Thinking Center as a clinician. Michelle owns the companies Think Social Publishing, Inc as well as The Social Thinking Center, Inc. and their related intellectual property.   


Non-financial: No relevant non-financial relationship exists.



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Pamela Crooke

Pamela Crooke

PhD, CCC-SLP, Chief Strategy Officer

Pamela J. Crooke is the Chief Strategy Officer of Research, Content, Clinical Services and the Director of Social Thinking Training & Speakers Collaborative.

Pam has co-authored, with Michelle Garcia Winner, five award-winning books related to Social Thinking: Socially Curious and Curiously Social, You Are a Social Detective, Social Fortune or Social Fate, Social Town, and their most recent book geared to adults, Social Thinking at Work: Why Should I Care? She and Winner collaborate on writing articles and blogs that appear on the Social Thinking website and in a wide array of publications.


Prior to joining the Social Thinking team in San Jose, she coordinated the Autism interdisciplinary clinical services at the Tucson Alliance for Autism in Tucson, Arizona, served as a clinical and academic faculty member of three universities, and worked in the Arizona public schools for 15 years. Pam is a prolific speaker both here in North America and abroad, giving workshops, presentations, and training staff on Social Thinking. She is on the board and/or is a member of a wide range of organizations related to social thinking and speech-language services, and has been the recipient of several grants and awards related to autism spectrum disorders.


She received her B.S. and M.S. in Speech Pathology/Audiology from Idaho State University and PhD in 1996 from the University of Washington in Seattle.


Treatment efficacy in social and relational therapies for individuals with Asperger's Syndrome and high-functioning autism remains Pam's area of emphasis. Her research-based article documenting the effectiveness of using the Social Thinking vocabulary, "Brief report: Measuring the Effectiveness of Teaching Social Thinking to Children with Asperger Syndrome (AS) and High Functioning Autism (HFA), (Crooke, Hendrix, & Rachman, 2008), was published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.




Idaho State University
Pocatello, Idaho
1986 Speech
Idaho State University
Pocatello, Idaho
M.S. 1987 Speech/Language Pathology
University of Washington
Seattle, Washington

Language Disorders
Treatment Efficacy


Related Employment

2012 - Current Social Thinking
Chief Officer: Research/Clinical
2009 - Current
Social Thinking
Director: Speakers' Collaborative
2007 - Current
Social Thinking Center
Senior Therapist
2007 - 2012
San Jose State University
2002 - 2007
University of Arizona
Autism Clinic Extension - Coordinator
2000 - 2004
Assessment Associates
Tucson, AZ
Owner/Partner - Private Practice
Autism Consulting/Diagnostics
1992 - 2007

Tucson Unified School District
Tucson, AZ

Co-Coordinator - Autism Program
Autism Diagnostic Team - TUSD
Speech/Language Pathologist


Publications (Books, Articles, Peer Reviewed)

Crooke, P. J., & Olswang, L. (2015-in press). Practice-based Research: Another Pathway for Closing the Research-Practice Gap. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research.

Lee, K. Y. S., Crooke, P. J., Lui, A.L.Y, Kan, P.P.K, Luke, K.L, Mak, Y.M, Cheung, P.M.P, Cheng, L., & Wong, I. (2015). The outcome of a social cognitive training for mainstream adolescents with social communication deficits in a Chinese community, International Journal of Disability, Development and Education, doi:10.1080/1034912X.2015.1065960

Winner, M.G. & Crooke, P. J. (2014). Executive functioning and social pragmatic communication skills: Exploring the threads in our social fabric. Perspectives on Language Learning and Education, Vol. 21 (2), pp. 42-50.

Winner, M. G. & Crooke P.J. (2013). Social Learning and Social Functioning: Social Thinking's Cascade of Social Functioning. Attention Magazine.

Madrigal, S., Winner, M., & Crooke, P, (2012). Social Town Citizens Discover 82 New Unthinkables. Think Social Publishing, Inc., San Jose, CA.

Crooke, P. & Winner, M. (2011) Social Fortune or Social Fate: A social thinking graphic novel map for social learning quest seekers, Think Social Publishing, Inc., San Jose, CA.
Award: (2012) International Book Awards Finalist for Young Adult: Educational

Winner, M. & Crooke, P. (2011). Social Thinking At Work – Why should I care? Think Social Publishing, Inc., San Jose, CA.
(2012) Finalist in “General Self-Help” International Book Awards and
Finalist in the "Best New Self-Help Book" Category

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

Winner, M., Crooke, P, & Madrigal (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,

Winner, M. G. & Crooke P. J. (2009). Assessing the Social Mind in Action: The Importance of Informal Dynamic Assessments, Autism News:Education/Therapy, Vol. 5(2), pp. 12-16.

Winner, M. & Crooke, P. (2009). Social Thinking: A Training Paradigm for Professionals and Treatment Approach for Individuals with Social Learning/Social Pragmatic Challenges
Perspectives on Language Learning and Education, 16 62-69

Winner, M. & Crooke, P. (2009). Socially Curious and Curiously Social: A social thinking guidebook for Bright Teens and young adults. Think Social Publishing, San Jose, CA.
(2012) International Book Awards Finalist - Youth Issues
(2012) International Book Awards Winner - Children's/Mind/Body/Spirit

Winner, M.G. & Crooke, P. (2008). You are a social Detective: Explaining social thinking to kids, Think Social Publishing, San Jose, CA.
(2012) Autism Society of America: Literary Excellence Award
(2012) NAPPA Parenting Award
(2012) Mom’s Choice Award

Crooke, P., Hendrix, R., & Rachman, J. (2008). BRIEF REPORT: The effectiveness of teaching social thinking to adolescents with asperger syndrome and high functioning autism. Journal of
Autism and Developmental Disorders
(38) 3.

Kreiymeyer, K., Crooke, P., Drye, C., Egbert, C., & Klein, B. (2000). Observed Outcomes of a co-enrolled Classroom: Teachers’ Perspectives. In Antia, S. and Stinson, M., (Eds.), Inclusive  Education for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students, Volta Review Monographs.

Presentations (2009 - Present)

  • 100+ full day workshops/conferences addressing various Social Thinking topics around various states in the United States
  • International Meeting of Autism Research (2014)
  • Geneva Center (Autism Research)




  • 2009-2015: Social Thinking conferences/workshop topics: Israel, Singapore, Australia, Hong Kong, Canada, Philippines, Malaysia, Argentina, Guatemala, and Spain.




  • American Speech, Language and Hearing Convention Invited Session (2013): Implementation Science: Moving Evidence Into Practice & Giving Practice Evidence
  • American Speech, Language and Hearing Convention (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015)


Crooke, P., Hendrix, R., & Rachman, J. (2008) Teaching Social Thinking to Children with Asperger Syndrome and High Functioning Autism: An Effectiveness Study, Poster Session for California Speech, Language & Hearing Association

Crooke, P., Hendrix, R., & Rachman, J. (2007) Teaching Social Thinking to Children with ASD: An Effectiveness Study, American Speech Language, & Hearing Association National Conference, Boston, Massachusetts.

Crooke, P. (2006) Communication and Social Thinking in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders
(Invited Speaker), NSSLHA Regional Conference, Phoenix, Arizona.

Crooke, P. (2005) Facilitating Social Exchanges Using a Peer Template, Poster Session, American Speech, Language, & Hearing Association National Convention, San Diego, California.

Crooke, P. (2004) Talking Template: Structured Peer Interviews with Children Diagnosed with Autism, Poster Session, Arizona Speech and Hearing Association State Convention.


University Courses (Primary Instructor):


University of Arizona: Clinical Instructor - graduate clinical practicum and diagnostics (2002-2007)
Autism Course (2005-2006)

San Jose State University: Clinical Faculty for diagnostics coursework and practicum (2007-2012) and Academic Faculty for Language Disorders (Spring 2011)

Professional/Organizational Activities

  • 2013 - 2014 ASHA Foundation Implementation Science Taskforce
  • 2007 - 2012 Chapel Haven West Advisory Board Member
  • 2007 - Present Teach SOCIAL! Silicon Valley Board Member
  • 2006 - 2010 Vanguard Advisory Board Member
  • 1987 – Present American Speech, Language and Hearing Association (ASHA)
  • 2007 – Present California Speech, Language and Hearing Association (CaSHA)
  • 2007 – Present Santa Clara County Speech, Language Hearing Association (SccSLHA)
  • 1990 – Present Autism Society –National (ASA)
  • 2003 – 2007 Arizona Speech, Language and Hearing Association (ArSHA)
  • 2004 - 2007 Tucson Alliance for Autism Board Member


Grant/Foundation Activities & Awards:

  • California Speech, Language and Hearing Association (CSHA), District 4 – Outstanding Achievement Co-recipient with Michelle Garcia Winner, 2011
  • Crooke, P. & Jacques, N. (2008) Special Hope Foundation; Social Thinking in the Schools ($50,000)
  • Crooke, P. (2005-present) Tucson Alliance for Autism – Anonymous Donor ($100,000 annually)
  • Crooke, P. (2007) The WEST Grant for Children with Autism ($8500)
  • Crooke, P. (2005) Alltel Grant for Infusing Art into Educating Children with Autism ($1500)
  • Crooke, P. (2004) Volpe Fund for Children with Asperger Syndrome ($10,000).
  • Crooke, P. (2003). Providing Education for Children with Autism and Related Communication Disorders. Robidoux Foundation ($20,000).
  • Crooke, P. & Tucker, C. (1999-2002) Educational and Communicative Interventions for Children with Autism. Robidoux Foundation ($3000/year).
  • Tom Jenkins Award for Outstanding Clinical Service to Individuals with Autism – October 2005.

Financial Disclosure

Financial: Pamela Crooke is employed by Think Social Publishing, Inc. as an author/speaker and receives compensation for her presentations. She is also employed by the Social Thinking clinic as a therapist. She receives no royalties for her books or publications.

Non-financial: No relevant non-financial relationship exists.

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Kari Zweber Palmer

Kari Zweber Palmer


Kari Zweber Palmer is a speech-language pathologist/social-cognitive therapist at her private practice, Changing Perspectives, in Excelsior, MN. She has co-authored, with Michelle Garcia Winner, Ryan Hendrix, and Nancy Tarshis, We Thinkers! Volume 1 Social Explorers and We Thinkers! Volume 2 Social Problem Solvers. Additionally, Kari consults with local school districts on implementing Social Thinking into their programming.

Kari's interest in communication and related disorders began long before she studied it formally. Her mom, Jane, is a speech-language pathologist and Kari grew up in the field. Kari received her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri and Master’s from the University of Kansas. Following her formal training, she started her career as a speech-language pathologist in the public schools in Minnetonka, MN, working predominately in the early childhood and elementary levels.

Kari's interest in Social Thinking was first ignited in graduate school when she was encouraged to facilitate a "social skills" group for teens. As she attempted to pull together a lesson plan for the group, she quickly realized she had no idea how to truly teach social. Discovering Michelle's work made all the difference, as she found information that concretely explained what to do and more importantly, why. Finding herself increasingly fascinated in Social Thinking, Kari researched and wrote "The Double Interview: Assessing the Social Communication of Adolescents with Asperger Syndrome" for her Master's thesis. Department faculty at the University of Kansas awarded her the Margaret C. Byrne Saricks Graduate Research Award for demonstrating excellence in Master's thesis research.

Kari worked as a full-time therapist at Michelle Garcia Winner's Center for Social Thinking in San Jose, CA. Her diverse caseload included preschool children to young adults, all with varying levels of social-cognitive challenges. Kari had the good fortune of training directly with Michelle and co-treated a teen group with her each week.

Kari is an active presenter and likes nothing better than to share the power of Social Thinking with others. Comments from past workshop participants include: "Kari was engaging, enthusiastic and obviously passionate about the topic. She was not only knowledgeable but balanced the information with real-life examples and humor."


Kari can usually be found chasing after her kids, thinking about training for another triathlon with her husband, and enjoying the lakes of Minnesota. She loves to travel and considers her experiences with an infant on an airplane the most interesting social experiment.

Financial Disclosure

Financial: Speaker for Think Social Publishing, Inc. and receives speaking fees and royalty payments.

Non-­financial: No relevant non-­financial relationships exist.

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Ryan Hendrix

Ryan Hendrix


Ryan Hendrix is a Social Cognitive Therapist at Social Thinking Stevens Creek in San Jose and a private therapist in San Francisco. She trained and works directly with Michelle Garcia Winner and Dr. Pamela Crooke. Her diverse caseload experience includes preschool-age children through young adults with varying levels of social cognitive learning challenges.

In addition to running groups, she actively collaborates with families and related professionals (teachers, resource specialists, psychologists, etc.) on ways to promote carryover and generalization of learning outside of the clinic setting. Ryan also helps supervise and train graduate students and clinicians in their clinical fellowship year and does ongoing mentorships within the Social Thinking Stevens Creek clinic.

Ryan received her Bachelor's Degree in Psychology with a minor in Art Therapy and her Master's Degree in Speech-Language Pathology from the University of Arizona. While at the U of A, Ryan met Dr. Crooke, who introduced her to the unpredictable, quirky world of Social Thinking. Having grown up with a close family friend with Asperger's syndrome, the concepts and lessons resonated strongly with her. Throughout graduate school and during her clinical fellowship year as part of the Autism Clinic Extension, Ryan conducted evaluations, designed and implemented treatment programs, and developed and led individual and group-based programs for children and adolescents ages 4-15 on the autism spectrum. Together with Dr. Crooke, she put together a research project to examine the efficacy of Social Thinking therapy. They later authored a published journal article discussing the results of the pilot study and presented the preliminary results in a technical session at ASHA in 2007.

Following graduation, Ryan continued implementing Social Thinking principles as a speech-language pathologist at the Tucson Medical Center. There she worked with children ages 1-12 with a variety of cognitive and communication impairments. She also collaborated and co-treated with occupational and physical therapists. When opportunity knocked in late 2007, she followed Dr. Crooke west to the Center for Social Thinking.

Ryan's artistic and creative talents allow her to present lessons in a visual, fun, and engaging manner. Working with a variety of ages and levels allows Ryan to sit on the floor, fly around in a cape, and create Superflex tools then turn around and explore the concept of a clique, the social fates and fortunes of working as a group, and break down the hidden rules of hanging out at a coffee shop. She is passionate about Social Thinking and the students and families she works with and enjoys collaborating with them and with their teams to take Social Thinking beyond the clinic walls.

Ryan, along with co-authors Kari Zweber Palmer, Nancy Tarshis, and Michelle Garcia Winner, created We Thinkers! Volume 1 Social Explorers and We Thinkers! Volume 2 Social Problem Solvers, curricula for preschool and early elementary years published by Social Thinking. She has thoroughly enjoyed creating a product that melds what we know about social development with the powerful concepts of Social Thinking and making it accessible to this group of learners and their teams and families.

Ryan truly enjoys sharing this information with families and professionals in both small settings and conferences and brings the concepts and strategies to life through stories and humor.

Other Experience
  • Group Facilitator, Asperger Syndrome/High Functioning Autism Social Groups in the Tucson community.
  • Developed, organized, and led in-home social play groups for children with social cognitive deficits from 6 to 15 years of age
  • Instructor and volunteer, Art*Works Art Therapy Center
  • Created and implemented literacy-based programming for adults with developmental disabilities
  • Programmed and supervised art and collaborative cooking studios
  • Designed and taught activities for daily living and life skills

Professional Affiliations

  • American Speech Language and Hearing Association (ASHA) member
  • California Speech Language and Hearing Association (CSHA) member


Ryan lives with her husband, young daughter, and two dogs in San Francisco. The sights and sounds of a busy city are a big departure from the desert southwest where she grew up, but she loves to get out and explore the area and all of the wonderful things it has to offer, especially the food!

Financial Disclosure

Financial: Author/speaker for Thinks Social Publishing, Inc. and receives speaking fees and royalty payments. She is also employed by the Social Thinking clinic as a therapist.

Non-­financial: No relevant non-­financial relationships exist.

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Nancy Clements

Nancy Clements


Nancy Clements is a speech language pathologist and Executive Director of Social Thinking Boston®, the East Coast sister clinic to Social Thinking Stevens Creek and Social Thinking Santa Clara. She brings her highly creative approach to her clinical practice, where she maintains a very active and varied caseload ranging from early social learners through adults. She is especially interested in bringing Social Thinking concepts to all learners and continuing to analyze the impact of social thinking methodologies across all tiers using a Response to Intervention (RTI) model. Nancy enjoys formulating programs from the ground up through creative strategies, systems of implementation, and models of efficacy that are data driven. Having been raised by parents who were both educators, she brings an empathic and collaborative approach to coaching teachers, administrators and specialists.


Before founding and opening Social Thinking Boston in 2012, Nancy was the Program Manager for Communication Services at the Stern Center for Language and Learning. She developed an in-depth Social Thinking program, including developmentally based groups, off-site coaching and consultations, and a three-credit graduate course in partnership with Saint Michaels College. In 2011 she mentored within the Colchester School District to analyze the impact of social thinking methodologies across all tiers using a Response to Intervention (RTI) model. Similar models have been duplicated in the Winooksi and Swanton Vermont school districts.

Throughout her 30+ year career she has served as a direct service provider, consultant, and has presented extensively across New England, Nationally and in Canada. Her strong ties to the Vermont educational community have reemerged in the greater Boston area, where her early professional experiences included clinically based interventions through the New England Rehab Hospital and the University Hospital in Boston. These experiences provided the opportunity to work within interdisciplinary teams both in the assessment process and development of programs, including the use of technology. She began incorporating her knowledge of assistive/adaptive technology (AAC) into her work and introduced this concept to the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center while continuing to extensively explore and build her skills with folks requiring assistive technology for communication. This expertise led her to the University of Vermont's Department of Communication and Disorders Program to implement an extensive three year national grant designed to teach graduate students about this technology while developing models of assistive/adaptive technology implementation in rural communities. Following her passion, she became a consultant for the Prentke-Romich company, traveling and providing extensive training about AAC. She became a leader in this field throughout Vermont and New England, often consulting to teams building blended programs, pulling together models from social communication, sensory integration, and technology.

Other Experience

Nancy has developed and presented workshops on a variety of topics in addition to the Social Thinking workshops she has been trained to give:

  • Workshop on Floortime and blended approaches to programming for students on the Spectrum (full day)
  • Workshop on RDI model of intervention- specific focus on modified and extension activities of this model (full day- week long training models)
  • Workshop on Executive Functioning –theory, research and strategies for elementary, middle and high school students (full day)
  • Sensory Integration meets Communication-theory, evaluation and strategies for joining methodologies (full day)

Speaking Experience

  • 1991: North Dakota- week long presentation on AAC with low functioning adults
  • 1993-1997: Extensive Presentations on AAC in Vermont, Mass, NH, NY and Ohio
  • 1997-2004: Extensive presentations throughout Vermont and New Hampshire on programming for students on the Autism spectrum using a blended approach to attending skills, functional skill building, social communication and self-regulation
  • 2004-2011: Presentations on Floortime, RDI model, Developing and Running Social Groups, Building Blocks for Early Literacy, Executive Functioning, and Picture Exchange Communication throughout Vermont and New Hampshire.
  • 2008-Present: Frequent Presenter at the Social Thinking Providers Conference, San Jose CA. Presentations Include: Summer Camp Curriculum
  • Broad Overview of development of the clinical Social Thinking Programs
  • School Based Social Thinking Implementation Across all Educational Tiers
  • Social Thinking Meets Design Thinking (co-presented with classroom teacher)
  • 2009: Poster Session at ASHA National Conference


In her spare time, Nancy enjoys cooking, traveling, reading, and taking long walks. She is also an avid sports fan. Having been happily married for 25 years, she also enjoys spending time with her husband, two grown children, her parents, and friends.


Financial Disclosure

Financial: Speaker for Think Social Publishing, Inc. and receives speaking fees. 

Non-­financial: No relevant non-­financial relationships exist. 

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Nancy Tarshis

Nancy Tarshis


Nancy Tarshis is a speech-language pathologist whose prolific career includes extensive experience working with children and their parents. In 1992, she joined the professional team at the Children’s Evaluation and Rehabilitation Center (CERC) at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where, in 1996, she was named Supervisor of Speech and Language Services. Currently, she maintains a clinical practice, seeing patients birth to 21 for diagnoses and therapeutic treatment, supervises ten speech pathologists, lectures to medical residents and psychology interns, participates in research projects, and serves as adjunct clinical instructor at Teachers College, Columbia, Hunter College, NYU, and Hofstra University. She is deeply experienced in a wide variety of treatment methodologies, including Social Thinking, is a frequent speaker across the U.S. on its concepts and strategies, and co-authored We Thinkers! Volume 1 Social Explorers and We Thinkers! Volume 2 Social Problem Solvers.

Nancy’s clinical work includes Altogether Social, a Social Thinking practice she co-founded with Debbie Meringolo, that serves clients age 14 months through 22 years. Altogether Social provides individual and group sessions, consultations to public and private schools, and trainings for parents and professionals.

Speaking Experience

  • Narrative Development and Intervention
  • Early Identification of Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Introduction to the ADOS
  • Pervasive Developmental Disorders
  • Play and Language: Development, Assessment, and Intervention for the Preschool Child
  • Parent-Child Dyadic Intervention for Infants
  • Handling, Positioning and Oromotor Control
  • Language Development and Language Disorders: Birth to Five
  • Play as a Context for Enhancing Developmental Skills
  • Early Intervention and Assessment of Autistic Infants and Toddlers
  • Speech and Language Assessment: Birth to Five Years
  • Interview Techniques and Hiring Practices: A Conversation with Professionals in the Field
  • Speech Therapy Post Cochlear Implant


Nancy is intensely proud of her son, an attorney, her daughter-in-law, a doctoral student in Geology, and her daughter, who is studying to become a Nurse Practitioner. She and her husband of over 30 years live in Manhattan.

Financial Disclosure

Financial: Speaker for Think Social Publishing, Inc. and receives speaking fees and royalty payments.

Non-­financial: No relevant non-­financial relationships exist.

Note: Nancy Tarshis and Debbie Meringolo are available to co-present and bring a unique perspective to the Collaborative. As clinicians and administrators at a university-affiliated developmental disabilities clinic, they provide evaluation and treatment to individuals from birth to 21. In their joint private practice, they offer a variety of supports that includes school consultations, staff training, parent education, and weekly treatment groups. They are uniquely qualified to offer professional training on the Social Thinking framework to teachers, therapists, administrators, and parents.

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Renee Attaway

Renee Attaway


Renee Attaway is the founder and director of Social Thinking® at Parish, a program at The Parish School that offers social cognitive services in the Houston, Texas. For over 5 years, her program provides group and individual therapeutic services for children from preschool to high school, an overnight social learning summer camp called Camp Social Superheroes, and a parent group.

As a Speech Language Pathologist, Renee has offered Social Thinking® groups since discovering Michelle's work in 2003. She has completed both the mentor training and internship at the Social Thinking clinics in San Jose, CA.


Renee's career has included working in private schools, the university setting, and private practice. She has focused on the school setting for over 14 years through work with the public schools as a supervisor, consulting with private schools and her position at The Parish school, a private school for children with language and learning differences. Renee's passion for language and cognition came from her many roles there, including working as a lead preschool teacher, pull-out therapist, and administrator for Speech Pathology services. Program development is another of Renee's strengths and she has been instrumental in creating or supporting language programs and summer camps at The University of Houston, The Parish School, and founded Camp Social Superheroes. She also served as a program chair the Texas Speech and Hearing Association.

Renee is an enthusiastic speaker who enjoys sharing her own clinical experiences with audiences across North America. She has traveled as a speaker all over North America and has over 10 years of speaking experiences in her community and to many different kinds of professionals. In addition, Renee speaks about social cognitive development, preschool play skills, group language therapy, and creating effective social groups.


Other Experience

At the University of Houston, Renee worked as a Clinical Supervisor and supervised graduate students in speech pathology.  She created and directed Cougar Communication Groups, which offered a summer group therapy experience for graduate students and included articulation, language, reading, and social groups.


For two-and-a-half years, Renee served on the Programming Committee for TSHA, which is responsible for planning and hosting the annual convention for the state.  Renee served as committee co-chair and helped coordinate the convention hosting site, sessions offered, and convention activities.


Speaking Experience

Renee has presented on the following topics in addition to the core Social Thinking workshops mentioned above:

  • Social Thinking® for Elementary Students
  • Language Development in Young Children
  • Preschool Social Development and Play Skills 
  • Social Groups 101:  How to run an effective social group
  • Pragmatic Language Skills
  • Behavior vs. Social:  Understanding Social Difficulties in a Classroom
  • Language Therapy in a Group Setting
  • Social Skills in the Preschool Classroom
  • Social Skills in Neurotypical Children



Renee is the mother of two young children and spends most of her free time playing, creating art projects, and chasing preschoolers. She is an avid reader and loves traveling, painting and crafts, restaurants, and Pilates.


Financial Disclosure

Financial: Speaker for Think Social Publishing, Inc. and receives speaking fees. 

Non-­financial: No relevant non-­financial relationships exist. 


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Debbie Meringolo

Debbie Meringolo


Debbie Meringolo, a special educator and developmental specialist, is the Associate Director of the Infant/Toddler Team at the Children's Evaluation and Rehabilitation Center (CERC), at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. She is also the director of the Baby Team parent-child treatment program, and the co-director of CERC's RELATE program, providing diagnostic evaluations and treatment for children/adolescents with communication and social challenges. In this administrative and clinical role, Debbie supervises clinicians, conducts evaluations and provides treatment for children individually and in groups. Along with colleagues at CERC she also participates in a variety of research projects, examining early diagnosis of children with autistic spectrum disorders.


In addition to her work at the clinic, she runs a part time Social Thinking practice along with Nancy Tarshis. They work with children ages 14 months through adult in individual as well as group sessions, consult to public and private schools and provide training for parents and professionals.


Debbie obtained her BA from Queens College, her MA from Columbia University, Teacher's College, and her MS from Yeshiva University. She also holds a NYS certificate as a School District Administrator, from Brooklyn College. Prior to her career at CERC, twenty years ago Debbie worked for the New York City Department of Education as a special education teacher, teacher trainer, special projects coordinator and special education school supervisor.

Debbie is currently working on a book for parents on Social Thinking.


Speaking Experience

  • Play and Language: Assessment and Intervention for the Preschool Child
  • Assessment and Intervention of Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders
  • Identifying Autism Spectrum Disorders in Young Children
  • Using the Autism Diagnostic and Observation Schedule
  • Educating Children With Autism



Debbie lives with her husband Marc in Westchester, NY. She has two adult children, one is an attorney and the another is studying social work. She is an avid biker, swimmer, and runner and loves to cook and bake. Debbie is proud of her long and diverse career in special education.


Financial Disclosure

Financial: Speaker for Think Social Publishing, Inc. and receives speaking fees. 

Non-­financial: No relevant non-­financial relationships exist. 


Note: Nancy Tarshis and Debbie Meringolo are available to co-present and bring a unique perspective to the Collaborative. As clinicians and administrators at a university-affiliated developmental disabilities clinic, they provide evaluation and treatment to individuals from birth to 21. In their joint private practice, they offer a variety of supports that include school consultations, staff training, parent education, and weekly treatment groups. They are uniquely qualified to offer professional training to teachers, therapists, administrators, and parents on the Social Thinking framework.

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Beckham Linton

Beckham Linton


Beckham Linton earned a Master of Arts degree in Speech Language Pathology at Oklahoma State University and has been working in the field for 24 years. She began her career in the area of Neurorehabilitation in the states of Oklahoma and Kansas and quickly developed a special interest in working with people facing social cognitive challenges following traumatic brain injury.


Beckham and her family moved to Ft. Collins, Colorado in 1996 where she worked as staff therapist and Director of the Speech-Language Pathology and Cognitive Rehabilitation departments at The Brain Injury Recovery Program, (currently named Center for Neurorehabilitation Services P.C.). Her responsibilities included evaluation and treatment planning for adults and children, cognitive rehabilitation program development, in-service training, client care coordination and public education. Beckham also served as staff therapist at The Speech-Language Stimulation Center in Ft. Collins, Colorado and managed a caseload including children birth to 3 years and teens/adults with voice disorders.

As her family grew, Beckham joined the Poudre Valley School District in 1999 where she served as a staff speech language pathologist for both elementary and middle schools supervising interns, developing in-service training programs and consulting with IEP teams across the district.

In 2003, Beckham relocated to Overland Park, Kansas and secured her current position in the Blue Valley School District. She quickly experienced an influx of students on her caseload whose significant social language challenges interfered with their ability to meet academic expectations, despite their strong verbal language skills. She also recognized that she and other SLP's were ill-equipped to effect real change in these students via traditional 'lunch group' social skills teaching methods, so with the help of one of her students' parents, Beckham began a search for more efficient and effective strategies. Her quest lead her to the work of Michelle Garcia Winner in Social Thinking and she has never looked back.

Greatly inspired, Beckham completed the Social Thinking Clinical Training Level 1in 2008 and Clinical Training Level 2 in 2009, and she attends yearly Social Thinking Conferences and collaborative meetings in order to stay current. In addition to her speaking and work in the public school system, Beckham runs a small private practice and has dedicated her career to sharing her passion for helping others become more effective communicators and personal problem solvers across all aspects of their lives.


Beckham enjoys a 28 year marriage and has 2 beautiful children. She loves reading, watching movies, family gatherings, dancing with 'the girls', morning yoga with my 'sis'and always looks forward to getting back to the mountains.

Other Experience

  • Development and implementation of individual and group social language therapy programs for kids ages 5- 15.
  • District wide teacher/parent continuing education talks on Social Language challenges
  • Contributor: Facilitating Relationships! Six Second Stories and Other Social Communication Strategies. Maryellen Rooney Moreau, M.Ed., CCC-SLP and Gwynne McElhinney, M.S., CCC-SLP
  • Received the ASHA Award for Continuing Education (ACE)
  • Developed Metacognitive awareness training presentation for neuro-rehabilitation professionals
  • Facilitator of the social support group for adults with TBI
  • Facilitator of the collaborative group called the 'Social Think Tank' in Blue Valley School District
  • Presenter: Social Thinking and The Story Grammar Marker: Strategies for Teaching Communicative Success and Personal Problem Solving
  • Presenter: The Language-Thinking Connection: Language + Thinking = Communication
  • Presenter: Social Thinking and BIST (Behavior Intervention Support Team)
  • Contributor: Superflex and Friends Take on Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and the Common Core Standards


Financial Disclosure

Financial: Speaker for Think Social Publishing, Inc. and receives speaking fees.

Non-financial: No relevant non-financial relationships exist.

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Gretchen Schmidt Mertes

Gretchen Schmidt Mertes


Gretchen Schmidt Mertes is an Educational Specialist in Autism and a well-known presenter and consultant throughout the Pacific Northwest. She has over 20 years of experience teaching both general and special education students, and currently works as a TOSA (Teacher on Special Assignment) with students' preschool through high school. Gretchen is the Autism Specialist for the Bethel School District (estimated enrollment 18,000) in Washington State, where she developed and coordinates district wide programming for students with autism and Social Thinking deficits in both special and general education. She also provides quarterly training for staff members, both classified and certified, on a variety of topics related to autism, Social Thinking, and other topics in Special Education. She graduated from Concordia College in Elementary Education in 1988 and received her M.Ed. in Special Education, summa cum laude, in 1995.


Gretchen's greatest passion is teaching teachers and other educators how to use Social Thinking within their own classrooms and schools. She has worked with many schools to develop school-wide implementation of Social Thinking in a differentiated model for all students. Her experience as a general and special education teacher, and most recently as an Educational Specialist in Autism, have given her credibility in understanding and helping educators implement Social Thinking in a variety of settings and levels.


Gretchen designed and supports five Social Thinking classrooms within her own district as well as supporting students with Social Thinking deficits in resource programs, and general and gifted education classrooms throughout the district, preschool through transition. She works with students, teachers, administrators, and parents to identify social cognitive needs and develop programming to meet those needs.


Other Experience

Regional Autism Facilitator/Trainer for the Autism Outreach Project, a Special Needs Project through the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction in Washington State.


As a statewide trainer, Gretchen provides numerous trainings on issues related to Autism, such as supporting and programming for those with Asperger's/High Functioning Autism and Social Thinking, structured learning, sensory needs, behavior, academics, and IEP development for both educators and families.


Private practice, as part of Puget Sound Autism Asperger's Associates, providing technical support, training, and consultation for districts, schools, and families of those with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other Social Thinking challenges throughout the state. Most recently, she has been working with school districts to incorporate Social Thinking into districtwide models, integrating Social Thinking into the initiatives of RTI (Response to Intervention) and PBS (Positive Behavior Supports) for all students. A book on the subject is currently underway.


  • Internship, University of Washington Autism Center, 2000-2001
  • Professional Development in Autism, University of Kansas 2005
  • Workshops attended include: Tony Attwood, Kari Dunn Buron, Dena Gassner, Temple Grandin, Carol Gray, Cathy Pratt, Ilene Schwartz, Stephen Shore, Brenda Smith Myles and many more.

Speaking Experience

  • Social Thinking® Training and Speakers Collaborative, speaking engagements through US and Canada based on the work of Michelle Garcia Winner 2011-Present.
  • Autism Outreach Project, Washington State, 2000-Present, multiple trainings annually on Asperger's and Social Thinking; Structuring Learning; Sensory Needs; and other topics
  • Summer Institute and quarterly staff development for the Bethel School District in Autism, Asperger's, Social Thinking and Special Education issues such as IEP development and compliance, 1999- Present
  • Combined Summer Institute (Autism, Multiple Disabilities, Deaf/Hard of Hearing, Visual
    Impairments, and Traumatic Brain Injury) for Washington State - presentations on Autism, Asperger's and Social Thinking, annually 2000-2010, 2012-Present
  • Changes in the DSM 5: Autism Spectrum Disorders and Social Communication Disorders Implications and Qualification, Washington State Association of School Psychologists Annual Conference, 2013
  • Autism and Educational Issues Current and Pending, Pacific Northwest Institute on Special Education and the Law, 2012 (Also presented for the LEA Directors at Puget Sound ESD 121 and various school districts)
  • Social Thinking Meets RTI and PBS, Social Thinking Providers Conference, San Francisco, 2010 and 2011
  • An Introduction to Social Thinking for Parents; Social Thinking Across the School Day; and Social Thinking Meets RTI and PBS, Kent School District, WA 2011 and Friday Harbor School District 2012
  • An Introduction to Social Thinking, Logan River Academy Residential Treatment Center, Logan River, UT 2011
  • Various Courses in Autism, Social Thinking and Special Education, Adjunct Instructor for Seattle Pacific University, 1999-2011
  • Social Thinking Across the School Day, Snohomish School District, Snohomish, WA, 2009
  • Panel Presentation: Social Thinking in Schools, 1st Annual Social Thinking Provider's Conference, San Jose 2008
  • An Introduction to Social Thinking, Lutheran Church Missouri Synod Northwest Teacher's Conference, 2008
  • Washington Autism Society, Annual Conferences 2001-2004
  • Summer Institute on Significant Disabilities, Washington State - presentation on BLAST,
    (Building Language and Social Skills Together), a "school within a school" designed to meet the needs of students with Social Thinking Deficits and Autism, 1999



Gretchen lives in Puyallup, Washington with her husband, two cats, and the variety of ducks, geese, birds, squirrels, and other critters that call their back yard pond "home." She and her husband love to spend time with friends and family and travel both near and far. If not at home spending time with friends, they are often on the road or at sea looking for adventure and local cuisine. Interests and hobbies include reading, sailing, theater, dance, cooking and gardening. Gretchen is also actively involved in her church where she serves as the Faith Formation Chairperson. She is an alumni of Up With People and Metropolitan Ballet of Tacoma and continues to stay actively engaged and involved in both organizations.


Financial Disclosure

Financial: Speaker for Think Social Publishing, Inc. and receives speaking fees and royalty payments. 

Non-­financial: No relevant non-­financial relationships exist. 

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Nancy Cotton

Nancy Cotton


Dr. Cotton is a Clinical Developmental Psychologist who received her Doctoral degree from Tufts University and completed Harvard Medical School internships and Post-doctoral fellowships in adult and child psychology.  She was a principal teacher and supervisor at Harvard Medical School from 1977 until she moved to Vermont in 1995.


Dr. Cotton has a longstanding interest in the comprehensive treatment of children and adolescents with difficulties stemming from biological, psychological, social, communication, and learning vulnerabilities.  She works closely with parents to develop their parenting skills and to understand their children’s individual styles.  She was the Director of a Harvard teaching hospital Inpatient Child Psychiatry Unit for ten years and worked as a principal consultant to the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health in program development and clinical treatment planning for children and adolescents in need of complex, intense, and comprehensive services. 


Dr. Cotton has a private practice in Burlington, Vermont where she treats adults, children, and families.  She is a licensed psychologist in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont.


She consults throughout these states to school-based and mental health teams coordinating complex educational and mental health programming for children and adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders, Psychiatric Disorders and behavioral and emotional problems.


Dr. Cotton is the Mental Health Specialist on Michelle Garcia Winner’s Social Thinking Training Collaborative and a Consulting Psychologist for Social Thinking Boston, Sudbury, Massachusetts.


Dr. Cotton’s approach to working with kids and their families emphasizes honoring, nurturing and treating the whole child and family. Her treatment is strength-based while problem-solving with good evaluations, empathetic formulations, and system-wide interventions to address difficulties stemming from biological, psychological, social, communication, and learning vulnerabilities.


Financial Disclosure

Financial: Speaker for Think Social Publishing, Inc. and receives speaking fees. 

Non-­financial: No relevant non-­financial relationships exist. 

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Chithra Kathiresan

Chithra Kathiresan

B. App. Sc.

Chithra has been working as an SLP in Singapore for over 20 years, upon completing her training in Australia. She has worked with adults and children with diverse needs and profiles both within hospital and community settings. She has been in private practice for the last 10 years. Chithra has a special interest in disorders of relating and communicating including Autism Spectrum Disorders.


Chithra is Hanen certified and has been conducting the More than Words and Talkability parent training programs since 2003. She is a certified DIR Floortime Expert with ICDL DIR Institute and a DIR trainer with Profectum. In 2013 Chithra started Connect and Communicate LLP in Singapore, a centre dedicated to social communication in children and young adults.

Chithra was introduced to Social Thinking in 2005 and attended mentorship training with Michelle Garcia Winner in 2006. She has conducted Social Thinking programs since both in groups and individually. In 2008 she attended the inaugural Social Thinking providers summit in San Francisco followed by more training at Michelle's Clinic. In 2012 Chithra was invited to be a member of the Social Thinking Speakers Collaborative and maintains close ties with the team. She has provided numerous consultations and trainings in Singapore and in the region.


Financial Disclosure

Financial: Speaker for Think Social Publishing, Inc. and receives speaking fees. 

Non-­financial: No relevant non-­financial relationships exist. 

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What's New

We’ve revised our Social Behavior Mapping posters

Join us in Portland, OR

Where to start with our teaching materials

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Supporting hard-to-reach students

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To change behavior, find its origin

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Dos and don’ts: Social Thinking groups

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In the News

If you'd like to do a story on Social Thinking, please email or call the main office at 408.557.8595. Social Thinking experts have been featured in

Some recent articles include:

  • Little Known Ways to Understand the Autism Spectrum

    In this article, Stephen Borgman shares with you Ms. Garcia Winner's ILAUGH model as a way as understanding the core social challenges that individuals on the spectrum face.
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Honors & Awards

Michelle Garcia Winner

  • Congressional Recognition Award, 2008
  • Lifetime Achievement Award, the Prentice School, 2012
  • Outstanding Achievement Award, California Speech- Language-Hearing Association (CSHA), 2012
  • Community Partner Award, Massachusetts Association for the Blind (MAB) Community Services, 2016

Pamela Crooke

  • Outstanding Achievement Award, California Speech- Language-Hearing Association (CSHA)
  • Tom Jenkins Award Award for Oustanding Clinical Service to Individuals with Autism


How Was Social Thinking Started?

Social Thinking was not started from a research question or funded through a hospital or University. It emerged from Michelle Garcia Winner’s desire to help her high school students and their teachers/parents develop a deeper understanding of what it means to learn to use “social skills” by studying social learning processes. Today Social Thinking represents an evidence based philosophy, teaching frameworks and related strategies which can be used with persons of all ages who use language to learn as they explore how we all think about the social thinking process.

What is Social Thinking?

Social Thinking is not a singular tool, but instead a constellation of concepts and related strategies to help all people better understand the social experience and how it can be taught through cognitive behavioral techniques. The strategies can be utilized by anyone teaching, counseling or living with a person with social learning challenges. Our strategies are also being adopted for use with typically developing students. Areas that Social Thinking tackles include but are not limited to:

  • Working and learning as part of a group
  • Social self-regulation and social skills
  • Strategies to interpret others’ social intentions and emotions. o Strategies to identify how student’s function socially based on the level of their social mind
  • Connecting the dots between our thinking, our feelings and our mental health
  • Strategies to encourage the growth of one’s perspective taking and socially based executive function skills
  • Assessment of social competencies in the here and now
  • Connecting one’s social mind to their social skills as well as to their social academic interpretation and expression (written, oral, etc.)
  • Teaching about the connection between the social mind and socially based Common Core and State Standards of Education as well as how to encourage deeper learning related to the standards
  • Teaching conflict resolution and social problem solving skills
  • Teachings concepts and skills for relationship development
  • Providing information to assist with understanding transition to adulthood choices
  • Providing strategies for adults in the workplace

Is Social Thinking a Sole Source Provider?

Yes, we are! Click here to download a copy of our Sole Source letter.

Who is our Material For?

We are considered a “differentiated instruction” as our concepts and strategies are designed for use with persons who have solid learning and language skills (students who benefit the most from our work have at least a verbal IQ of 70). We teach through language about the complexities of the social learning process. Clients/students who have very weak language and learning skills are encouraged to participate in more rote base social skills teaching programs, which do not require the student to engage in active language based social problem solving.

How do we Help Family Members & Professionals Conceptualize How to Teach Social Learning to People with Social Learning Challenges?

Social Thinking is not a singular tool, but instead creates a constellation of concepts and related strategies to help all people better understand the social experience and how it can be taught through cognitive behavioral techniques. Family members, Professionals, teaching assistants and other caregivers benefit from the teachings of Social Thinking because we provide a structure to help adult caregivers better understand the scope and sequence of teaching social information to our students. It’s interesting to consider that while we can remember being taught math or reading skills as children, we cannot remember being taught much social information. For this reason, we are naturally better at organizing our selves to teach lessons in math and reading to children, even if we are not a certified math or reading teacher. However, even certified treatment professionals, whether they are focused on mental health or education, have a much more difficult time determining how to develop lessons for teaching students about the social learning/social skills process.


Social Thinking provides information to help adult teachers/mentors/family members organize their own thinking on how to teach social learning concepts to promote the teaching of social skills, social emotional and social academic achievement as they learn how all of these concepts are inter-connected. We use frameworks such as the ILAUGH Model of Social Thinking to reveal common challenges of folks with social learning challenges while also demonstrating how these socially based concepts also dovetail into academic learning. We use tools such as Social Thinking’s Social Learning Tree to demonstrate how we need to avoid assumptions and teach our students information from the roots of social knowledge rather from the different islands of academic functioning represented by the branches.


Our Four Steps of Communication and Four Steps of Perspective Taking provide entry level frameworks into teaching about we use multiple systems to process and respond effectively to human interactions. The way we break down information to reveal the core “social code” helps adult caregivers and educators better understand their own personal communicative functioning as well as how to explain this information to typically developing students of all ages. While Social Thinking started as a tool for use with special needs students its core lessons have been found to be of great value in helping all students learn more about their own social problems solving, helping to improve students conflict resolution skills!

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