A simple way to teach Theory of Mind

I did the 13 hour long Sydney to San Francisco flight WITH a 4 month old to attend my first Social Thinking® conference (a teaching methodology created by Michelle Garcia Winner) in February this year and I’m still on a buzz from all the ideas that it sparked. These arrows have been a big hit in my room for my kids with ASD/Social Communication Disorder who need to develop their Theory of Mind – and explore that people have different ideas, beliefs and perspectives to their own. While so many teaching phrases made an impact on me, the biggest was “Eyes are like arrows, they point to what someone is looking at”.

Because eye contact can be quite limited, my kids aren’t always seeing what is going on around them. They might miss my reactions and facial expressions and have difficulties connecting the dots in social situations… I now use BIG and BOLD arrows so that when they do check in with me we can work on getting them to not only see what I am thinking about, but think why am I thinking about it.

I have a pair like these on sticks so that I/we can hold them up to our eyes to show what we are thinking about. Sticking a pair oimg_8325nto my glasses has been really useful as well and in groups everyone wants to have a turn!

So what do I look at and how do I use them? Here a couple of ideas:

  • I lay activities out around the room and use my arrows to look at what we are going to do – the child has to follow my gaze to see what it is. If we are playing a game I might use my eyes to look at who can have the next turn. This is a really great way to get my kids to check-in otherwise the game doesn’t get going.
  • When the session time is nearly up I use my arrows to look at the clock and see if they can not only see what I’m looking at, but why (it’s finish time).
  • If they pick their nose/sneeze/cough into their hands I use my arrows to look at the hand sanitizer. A lot of my kids know that I like to keep good hygiene standards (as do most classrooms) so I have big facial expressions revolving around this.
  • If they are distracted and looking at something in my room I use the arrows to track what they are looking at and thinking about. This can then lead into a gentle reminder to be thinking about me (or our group) and what we are doing.
  • When watching YouTube clips we might pause the video and use the arrows to see what people are looking at or thinking about. See my 10 favourite YouTube videos for Social Skills post if you need some ideas.

If you’re starting to see all the amazing possibilities for teaching your students (and I’ve only skimmed the teeniest, tiniest surface), then your must have book is Thinking about You, Thinking about Me by Michelle Garcia Winner for an in depth understanding. You really want to learn more about this teaching technique from the experts in our field… it will change your whole therapy!

Make sure you download my free mini Social Stories while you’re here, for topics including “When I can’t control myself” and “How to give compliments”.


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Hi, I'm Rebecca.
I encourage SLPs to feel more confident treating speech sound disorders, and make faster progress with their students.


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