Social Thinking® Intervention
for Preschoolers through Adults
Based on the work of world-renowned expert Michelle Garcia Winner, MA, CCC-SLP
For most of us, interacting with other people comes naturally. However, individuals with conditions such as High Functioning Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, Verbal or Nonverbal Learning Disabilities, ADHD, Social Anxiety or those with no specific diagnosis but struggle with social interactions, often lack this innate ability to think through and succeed in everyday social situations. For them, social thinking must be learned and practiced.
PSLLC’s cutting-edge Social Thinking® groups bring together individuals of similar ages and abilities for weekly therapy sessions. They learn ways to more easily “fit in” and establish and maintain friendships.
Based on the work of world-renowned expert Michelle Garcia Winner, we teach social thinking skills ranging from perspective taking, which is understanding that others have “thoughts” separate from our own, to interpreting and responding to the nuances of verbal and non-verbal communication. Learn more about Social Thinking® at Michelle Garcia Winner's website.
"Social Thinking is a paradigm shift in the way we teach individuals about social functioning, social learning, and social skills. We start at the level of thinking, about self and others, rather than focusing treatment on behavior change. We look deeper at an individual’s challenges, rather than treat based on a diagnostic label. Despite these differences, Social Thinking pares well, and actually overlaps with, many existing treatment models—including ABA–and often provides a “missing link” in helping individuals gain a stronger understanding of what it means to think social". Michelle Garcia Winner
Signs of Social Learning Challenges
- Has trouble making friends, keeps to him/herself
- Socially anxious
- Socially awkward
- Can not see the “big picture”
- Has trouble figuring out others’ intentions
- Can not “read” body language, facial expressions, context, etc.
- Is struggling with reading comprehension
- Has trouble managing his/her time
- Poor planning and organizing skills
- Has trouble taking notes in class
- Is having difficulty working in a group
- Does not understand “figurative language”
- Difficulty initiating conversations and social interactions
- Does not show empathy
- Has trouble holding a job
- Is being repeatedly bullied
- Is refusing to participate in school activities
Who can benefit from participating in the social thinking groups?
Groups are geared for individuals with average to above average IQ who have social cognitive deficits as a result of High Functioning Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, ADHD, Social Anxiety, Non-verbal Learning Disorder (NLD), PDD-NOS, or those with no specific diagnosis. We work with students starting in kindergarten and, as students progress in school, they gradually move on to more complex social thinking topics depending on their maturity and interest level.
How the groups work
New groups are formed at the beginning of the school year for the regular (September to June) session and in June for the 8-week summer session. Each group includes two to four students and meets for an hour, once a week, under the supervision of a nationally certified speech-language pathologist. Each treatment session includes:
- Gathering – Three to five minutes of open talk time.
- Group Lesson – Social cognitive strategies and social thinking lessons.
- Practice/Unstructured Time – This could include an “open topic” discussion among group members. During this time, the therapist provides feedback to reinforce the lesson.
- Parent Wrap Up – Parents gather while the therapist reviews the group’s lesson. If parents are unable to attend, we arrange for them to receive feedback either via email, phone calls or face-to-face conferences.
- Role Play or Guided Practice
- Activities and Games
- Video and Visual Support
- Social Stories Scripts
- Homework and Parent Tips
- Positive Reinforcement
- Executive Function
- Stree Management
Promoting desirable behaviors
While the program explores a wide range of topics, some central lessons include:
- Non-verbal communication
- Initiating conversations/Small talk
- Problem solving and negotiating
- How their behavior impacts others
- Emotional regulation and self control
- Group dynamics/How to “fit in”
- Understanding abstract language
- Thinking flexibly
- Understanding hidden social rules
Lessons by Age Group
- Lower Elementary:
- Focus is on social interaction and non-verbal play
- Observing others
- Imitating others
- Making “smart guesses” about others’ intentions
- What is “expected” and “unexpected” for social behaviors
- Upper Elementary:
- Interacting with and relating to others
- Organizational skills
- Visual organizational systems to help conceptualize both social interactions and academic work
- Time management
- Making “smart guesses” about others’ intentions
- What is “expected” and “unexpected” for social behaviors across contexts
- Middle School:
- “Reading” body language and non-verbal cues
- Expected behaviors for middle school
- Inferring “hidden rules” of social behavior
- High School:
- All of the aforementioned skills
- Social networking
- Acquaintances versus good friends
- Holding thoughts and not interrupting others
- “Social Fakes”, or feigning interest and asking questions
- Reading between the lines of what people say
- Understanding and responding to new social situations
Expected vs. Unexpected
Individulas are taught that verbal and nonverbal actions have consequences in terms of how other people think about us. “Expected” actions can generate good thoughts, and “unexpected” actions can generate weird thoughts.
What to Keep In and What to Let Out
Individulas are taught that certain types of knowledge/ opinions should stay in one’s head and certain types of knowledge/opinions can be shared with others.
We have found that these methods of teaching social thinking increase the occurrence of desirable social behaviors outside the therapy room. Over time, they learn how their social behaviors can influence others’ thoughts and actions.
Why Social Thinking® Intervention differs from traditional Social Skills groups
Social Thinking group therapy addresses the thought processes behind social interactions, which helps children and adults carryover and apply social skills to new contexts and environments.
SocialThinking® in the News
Beyond Skills: The Worth of Social Competence
Michelle Garcia Winner & Pamela J. Crooke
Words create mental imagery. They form the perspectives we hold and the impressions we impart to others. Words can be like a pebble dropped into a pond: They set into motion a series of events that can affect others in far-reaching ways.
Consider this case study.
At 14, Caleb was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Why the late diagnosis? On the surface, Caleb appeared to be a typical studious kid: quiet, well-mannered and pleasant to talk to. But the reality is that Caleb had no friends, rarely spoke in class and ate by himself every day. He struggled to understand what his peers meant by what they did or said and routinely “zoned out” during class lectures. His parents finally decided something needed to give when Caleb’s teachers expressed concern about his crying during class—in middle school. As Caleb entered high school the crying disappeared, but it was soon replaced by resistance.
During our initial session Caleb presented with a big smile (how he exhibited anxiety) and agreed to work with us to figure out how to tolerate all the “jerks” at school. To Caleb, everyone was a jerk. Before long, we learned he expressed no interest in making friends, had virtually no awareness of the school’s social culture, could not take others’ perspectives, was more literal than testing suggested, expressed rigidity and a one-sided point of view, was very fussy and demanding at home, and had weak organizational skills.
Read more: Click Here!
Teaching Students about Their Learning Strengths and Weaknesses
By Michelle Garcia Winner
Over the years, I observed so many students get upset by the fact they had “autism” or “Asperger 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 Howard Gardner)...
Read more: Click here
Parents: Is Your Treatment Team Teaching Social Thinking Well? Questions to Ask Professionals in Private Practice
By Michelle Garcia Winner
In the early 1990s I coined the term “Social Thinking®” and began creating a teaching/ treatment methodology that is today being used in schools, clinics, and homes across North America and around the world. Teachers are infusing the Social Thinking Vocabulary into daily class work, Pre-K teachers are introducing early learners to the Social Thinking Vocabulary, entire schools have adopted the Superflex™ curriculum to build strong social awareness and “social smarts” in all their students, and clinics and treatment programs are basing services and programs for all ages on Social Thinking curricula, materials, and teaching frameworks. Why? Because Social Thinking works!
Just like any good program, Social Thinking is not a “one-size-fits-all” approach. It’s designed to be flexible (flexible thinking is the heart of what we teach) and we encourage parents and professionals to adapt our materials to fit the needs of the students or individuals with whom they work. The flip side of this encouraged “shared creative thought” approach is that the methodology can, and is, being used incorrectly, not as it was originally taught. The most frequent mistake we see: people teaching Social Thinking concepts too quickly and expecting students to simply change their behavior based on the terminology we have created.
Social Thinking teachings take parents, professionals and students on a journey from learning about their own and others’ social thinking to then learning to self-regulate their own behavior to meet their personal social goals (e.g. to be included, accepted, etc.).
Read more: Click here
Social Thinking: What You Need to Know
By Kate Kelly
At a Glance:
- The Social Thinking teaching framework is designed to help kids who struggle with social skills.
- Social Thinking teaches kids how to figure out what other people may be thinking and feeling.
- Building these skills can lead to better social interactions.
Read more: https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/partnering-with-childs-school/instructional-strategies/social-thinking-what-you-need-to-know
Teaching Social Skills to Improve Grades and Lives
The New York Times
July 24, 2015
Studies confirm the wisdom of teaching social skills first: Children who feel well-liked settle down to learn better in class, and go on to do better in life.
Read more: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/07/24/building-social-skills-to-do-well-in-math/?mwrsm=Email
How To Enroll
We require an application and pre-group interview for all new clients to determine whether they can benefit from our services. We ask parents/caregivers to provide recent copies of all medical and diagnostic reports that are relevant to the student’s academic behavioral and language abilities, as well as an IEP or 504 plan, if available. To begin the application process, please click on the link to fill out the appropriate forms.
You can fax the forms to (609) 924-6563, or mail them to:
Princeton Speech-Language & Learning Center
19 Wall Street
Princeton, NJ 08540
Our director will contact you once your forms have been received and reviewed. If space is available, we will set up a pre-group consultation. If there is no space available, your child will be put on a waiting list until there is an appropriate fit for your child. If we determine that your child can benefit from our services, we will place your child in an age-appropriate group with children who have similar abilities and needs.
If you would like to learn more about how our Social Thinking® Groups can help your child, please schedule an appointment today. Call (609) 924-7080, email or contact us online.