Kari Zweber Palmer


Kari Zweber Palmer is a speech-language pathologist and 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 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 thinking. 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 with 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, California. Her diverse caseload included preschool children to young adults. 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."

Click here to download Kari's CV


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: Author/speaker for Think Social Publishing, Inc., and receives speaking fees and royalty payments.

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

Recent Articles

The 3 Parts of Play: Teaching Planning and Executive Functions

Author(s): Ryan Hendrix, MS, CCC-SLP, Michelle Garcia Winner, MA, CCC-SLP, Pamela Crooke, PhD, CCC-SLP, & Kari Zweber Palmer, MA, CCC-SLP

The 3 Parts of Play/Activity is a visual framework designed to teach social learners about planning, choice making, and time management—all executive functions. It also helps individuals learn that any activity involves a process, and there are steps we take from start to finish while keeping time limitations in mind. This builds essential and foundational executive functions. The nice part about this framework is that we can explain that any activity, whether individual or group based, has at least three parts, and all parts involve time prediction.

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Empowering Student Voices: The Transformative Impact of Student-Led Social Learning & Advocacy

Author(s): Kari Zweber Palmer, MA, CCC-SLP, Ryan Hendrix, MS, CCC-SLP, Michelle Garcia Winner, MA, CCC-SLP, Pamela Crooke, PhD, CCC-SLP

Listening to our students and trusting them as experts on their own experiences can transform the educational landscape through student-led approaches to social, emotional, and academic learning (SEAL). Conversations with approximately 500 4th and 5th graders based on the simple prompt, Someday in school, I would like to_____., empowered these kids to give voice to their aspirations and perspectives on making school a more inclusive and fulfilling environment. The powerful themes of choices and relationships that emerged from this activity highlight the essential elements needed for every student to feel a sense of belonging. Truly heeding their voice serves as an important reminder of where to invest our time and energy—especially as we head back to school.

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How to Foster Students’ Flexible Thinking & Advocacy Skills Using Future Thinking: The Somedays Activity

Author(s): Kari Zweber Palmer, MA, CCC-SLP, Ryan Hendrix, MS, CCC-SLP, Michelle Garcia Winner, MA, CCC-SLP, Pamela Crooke, PhD, CCC-SLP

Engage your students in a low-effort, high-impact group activity that cultivates future thinking, reasoning, and flexible thinking to develop advocacy skills. When encouraging students to imagine their ideal school experience by completing the sentence, Someday in school, I would like to ___., educators create opportunities for students to imagine what they can do in the here and now to create a path for themselves that they desire for the future. Explore how this activity fosters students’ goal setting, interactions with others, and the practice of using their voice for advocacy, allowing them to feel empowered, included, heard, and engaged in their educational experience.

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DO ObseRve (DOOR): A Practical Social Observation Strategy for Managing Social Transitions

Author(s): Kari Zweber Palmer, MA, CCC-SLP, Ryan Hendrix, MS, CCC-SLP, Michelle Garcia Winner, MA, CCC-SLP, Pamela Crooke, PhD, CCC-SLP

Explore the teachable role that everyday doors play in developing social observation skills. Doors not only define physical spaces, but they also serve as visual cues for transitioning into new situations. By encouraging our students, children, and clients to use the Do ObseRve strategy before entering a new space, they can first imagine the situation, gather information by thinking with their eyes, ears, and brain as they observe the situation, and then make smart guesses about what to expect to manage the transition and navigate social situations more effectively. Use this simple strategy in school, at home, and in the community.

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The ABCs of Summer Boredom: Awareness, Curiosity, and Action

Author(s): Michelle Garcia Winner, MA, CCC-SLP, Pamela Crooke, PhD, CCC-SLP, Kari Zweber Palmer, MA, CCC-SLP, Ryan Hendrix, MS, CCC-SLP

“I’m bored!” Those familiar (yet dreaded!) words can often punctuate the lazy days of summer we hope to be filled with fun, adventure, and new experiences. But boredom, like any other feeling, holds valuable information. Recognizing and understanding boredom is the first step toward transforming it into something more fulfilling. In this article, we explore the signs of summer boredom, particularly focusing on children and teens, and delve into strategies to combat its restlessness, ignite creativity, and empower guided decision-making.

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Two Simple Executive Function Strategies to Avoid Family Stress & Stay Connected During Summer Break

Author(s): Michelle Garcia Winner, MA, CCC-SLP, Pamela Crooke, PhD, CCC-SLP, Kari Zweber Palmer, MA, CCC-SLP, Ryan Hendrix, MS, CCC-SLP

Summer break can be a great time for kids to relax and have fun, but it can also be a time when change and lack of structure are the norm, which can be stressful for kids and parents alike. In this article, we share two executive function strategies for creating a summer break schedule that’s full of choices and gives kids some responsibility for coming up with healthy ways to entertain themselves while staying connected with the family.

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Brain Wires and Social Smarts: A Student’s Tool to Reflect on Their Growth

Author(s): Kari Zweber Palmer, MA, CCC-SLP, Ryan Hendrix, MS, CCC-SLP, Michelle Garcia Winner, MA, CCC-SLP, and Pamela Crooke, PhD, CCC-SLP

A teacher recently shared her thoughts on the end of the school year, referring to it as the time when teachers and caregivers have everything to do and students have… nothing to do. While this, of course, is an overgeneralization, many of us might be able to relate. So how do we finish up the school year with Social Thinking in an intentional, but also realistic way?

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Thinking Flexibly About We Thinkers! Volume 1: Overview and Q&A

Author(s): Ryan Hendrix, MS, CCC-SLP, Kari Zweber Palmer, MA, CCC-SLP, Nancy Tarshis, MA, MS, CCC-SLP, and Michelle Garcia Winner, MA, CCC-SLP

Studies continue to demonstrate the benefits of starting education early, and that education is the best way to close the gap for disadvantaged students. It’s also the best way to provide supported collaborative learning and play experiences for children with social cognitive learning differences and/or challenges.

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Are You Teaching Deeply, or Redirecting Behavior? Using the Social Thinking Vocabulary Terms Expected and Unexpected

Author(s): Kari Zweber Palmer, MA, CCC-SLP

Social Thinking Vocabulary terms describing behavior as “expected” or “unexpected” are popular as they help students develop self-awareness and look for the “hidden social rules” in a situation. This article offers tips and questions to reflect on your instruction to determine if your use of the terms “expected and unexpected” is a catalyst for powerful teaching, or just an attempt to redirect behavior.

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How the GPS Interactive Play Scale Relates to Classroom Participation

Author(s): Michelle Garcia Winner, MA, CCC-SLP, Nancy Tarshis, MA, MS, CCC-SLP, Kari Zweber Palmer, MA, CCC-SLP, and Ryan Hendrix, MS, CCC-SLP

Kids come to the classroom with differing abilities. Those who are more "me-based" or adult- based players are not as likely to naturally figure out the dynamics of a playground or a classroom, while those with stronger "we-based" play skills tend to be more fluid in their ability to attend and learn in larger groups. Learn about our Interactive Play Scale and how you can use our tools to help the children you work with improve their social understanding through play.

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