Social kids. What do you do with them? I always felt like I was missing something when I saw my “Social Kids”. Yes, I could pinpoint obvious areas of difficulty such as not making much eye contact and having one-sided conversations. I wrote social story after social story but always felt in the back of my mind…. “I don’t really know where to start or what I’m doing”.
That was me five years ago, when I first started working in America and had a lot of students with an Autism Spectrum diagnosis. Today, I am confident. I have a framework (I really needed a framework) and things makes sense to me. And if they make sense to me, then I can teach those concepts so that it makes sense to the kids, families and teachers who I support.
I’ve been dabbling in Social Thinking® for the last five years and like with any journey, I’ve been reflecting on what my 32-year-old SLP self would tell my 27-year-old self when I first came across this teaching methodology by Michelle Garcia Winner.
LESSON #1 Go to a Social Thinking® conference
We all know that buzz you get when you go to a conference and you hear and see a real-life SLP actually telling you things that just ‘click’ for you as a therapist. I waited waaaay too long to go to my first conference, but I really should have attended first because the whole time I kept thinking “ohh…. that’s a good way to say that”, or “ahh… that makes more sense now!”. So if this is an area that interests you, get your theory straight from the beginning.
LESSON #2 There is a difference between social skills and social thinking
Once I heard this short article explained in person, I had a big ‘aha’ moment. Read this and it will CHANGE how you approach therapy. And if you want to hear it in person… follow my Lesson #1.
LESSON #3 You don’t need TONS of therapy materials
This is my admission: While I make resources for TpT, I am quite selective about what TpT materials I’ll use for my social kids, and it’s quite limited. Why? Because I want to ‘teach social’ while ‘being social’. So what are my go-to tools?
- Lots of thought bubbles and speaking bubbles. I have them on hand-held sticks, on portable whiteboards and in sticker form.
- I use these visuals EVERY session to represent different thoughts and feelings as I feel that it really helps my student’s to identify what they or I am thinking.
- My playlist on YouTube is always a hit! It engages and there is SO MUCH non-verbal communication happening that I can turn a 3 minute clip into a 30 minute therapy session.
- Story books from the We Thinkers! Volume 1 Social Explorers Deluxe Package. These are amazing because they teach Social Thinking concepts in story form and have great illustrations to help consolidate the ideas. Your kids can look + listen + think about the ideas at the same time.
LESSON #4 Know what you’re teaching
I have jumped all over the place using Social Thinking® resources aimed at different age groups, starting back with Superflex, but I realised that it could have been better. This is what I wish I knew and had read when I first started dabbling:
Social Thinking® provide a handy ‘Getting Started’ page, that can be used as a reference to their different resources, particularly if you are working with a specific age group. It’s great to see the scope of products and teaching methodologies. Because I’ve been a big thought/speech bubble fan right from the start, I’d definitely read how Michelle Garcia Winner teaches using them so that you get the best ideas. If you love a good framework to help you understand the ‘big picture’ then look at the ILAUGH model which is simply explained in the link provided. This model really helps guide my dynamic assessment and therapy goals. Or, if you are a visual learner and like to ‘see’ things mapped out, then the Social Thinking-Social Learning Tree is the way to go. Finally, check to see if Social Thinking have included a fidelity checklist for any of the programs or resources that you might already own. These checklists will help to guide and self-monitor how you use Social Thinking® materials.
Please note that while I received a copy of We Thinkers! Volume 1, I attended the conference on my own accord and all thoughts and opinions are mine and what has personally helped my Social Thinking® journey.