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Using the Social Thinking Methodology to Improve Social Competencies in Schools

Michelle Garcia Winner, MA, CCC-SLP

Jul 12, 2019

Improve Social Competencies in Schools

© 2019 Think Social Publishing, Inc.


People around the world are using the Social Thinking Methodology and its practical concepts and strategies to help all students (not just those with social challenges,) improve their social competencies. Family members and professionals of all kids, including speech-language pathologists, general education teachers, special educational teachers, counselors, social workers, therapists, school administrators, etc. use our curriculum and intervention materials to teach self-awareness, self-regulation, executive functioning, perspective taking, and social-emotional learning. Many in schools also use the Social Thinking Methodology to support IEP (Individualized Education Program) development, PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports), SEL (social-emotional learning), and RTI (Response to Intervention) initiatives.


Our core teaching frameworks, concepts, and strategies are adaptable to individuals across the lifespan starting at age 4. We start by teaching self-awareness. As students become increasingly mindful of how they are impacting others around them, this awareness fosters improved self-regulation. One of the fundamental tenets that runs through all our teachings and that we repeat again and again is this: what you do affects how others think and feel, and that impacts how they respond to you.


The Social–Academic Connection

Social competencies not only enable us to maintain relationships, they are essential for success in academic lessons that require us to consider others’ thoughts, feelings, intentions, beliefs, motives, plans, etc.


Social competencies are required to work effectively as part of a group, stay on task, figure out the expected times to talk in class, and share space well with others in the classroom, cafeteria, and on the playground. We also rely on our social competencies when reading stories to understand character relationships and the deeper meaning behind the actions of characters in context. If a student has poor social abilities, he or she will struggle to take the perspective of characters, figure out how they are affected by others, and understand why characters act and feel as they do. These students tend to be “more literal” in how they interpret social cues and can have very strong factual learning. They tend to do better with informational text but are weak in comprehending social literature.


Social competencies are also required to write an effective essay. We must take the perspective of the reader and consider what they may already know or not know about the topic we’re writing about. We must consider how to organize the information so it will be logical for the reader to follow. If a student has social learning challenges, he or she will have difficulty understanding the perspective of the reader and will therefore have trouble writing a persuasive essay that is well organized and easily understood by others.


Academic standards require students to demonstrate point of view and describe, compare, or contrast information about how characters are thinking and feeling while using context-sensitive vocabulary. This all heavily relies on one’s ability to understand the social world.


Mainstream teachers typically expect students to come into the classroom with a solidly functioning social mind that they can apply in working through curriculum lessons across a wide range of subjects. Teachers are not well-equipped to teach students who come to school with limited perspective-taking skills how to figure out the social thoughts, feelings, and intentions of the characters or subjects they are reading about. The expectation is that students already have the ability to do this on their own.


Considering the social mind and its vital importance in achieving success in academics may seem new to some readers. That’s because historically we have taken social cognition for granted. Everyone started out with the same set of thinking tools, right? Success is just a matter of applying oneself. We now know that’s simply not true. Some students are born to brains that struggle to figure out the social world. Our expectations need to change accordingly.


Using Social Thinking Methodology materials, students work to build social competencies (self-regulation, executive functioning, etc.). These skills help students understand themselves and others to better navigate the social world and foster relationships, while also honing their ability to manage themselves in a classroom, understand the material at a deeper level, and meet the academic standards. The Social Thinking Methodology helps foster both social and academic performance; the two are inextricably intertwined.


Social Thinking Products to Use with Students

Our tools offer a scope and sequence for teaching social concepts in a way that makes the implicit explicit. At the heart of our methodology is helping individuals understand how they think and feel, and consider the thoughts and feelings of those around them. Many of our materials are used in inclusion-based classrooms, and some are being adopted district-wide with all classes and all grades. Here are some of our most popular products used by educators, clinicians, and families around the world. New to Social Thinking? Check out our most up-to-date recommendations for getting started with the Social Thinking Methodology.


Preschool to Primary:


Secondary to Adulthood:


Almost All Ages:


Social Thinking Products for Professionals and Family Members

Our core products are intended to help the interventionist (professional, parent, caretaker) learn important social concepts and tools to teach social competencies to ages 4 and up. Unlike our other materials that are designed to be used with specific age groups, these products teach concepts so foundational that they apply across ages. Check out our core products.


We also share our newest thinking and strategies through our free webinars, free articles, eLearning video courses, and the many conferences we host across the country. Check out our free 10 Core Concepts webinar series to learn our foundational information through engaging videos with founder Michelle Garcia Winner.

Related Products

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Most people regularly engage in a range of social interactions, yet few know that social engagement is only part of our larger repertoire of social responses. In this series, the learner will explore how each aspect of our social thinking facilitates our ability to not only socially interact but also to engage in academic processes such as written expression, reading comprehension, narrative language, group work, classroom participation, etc. Social cognition is at the heart of our social being and it is from this point of view that the company Social Thinking has developed social-emotional learning concepts, frameworks, and strategies. The ILAUGH Model of Social Cognition is an evidence-based conceptual framework to guide professionals and parents to better understand and teach social competencies by exploring social thinking, social problem solving, and the social learning experience, including the social-academic connection. ILAUGH is an acronym to represent ideas published in research, informal assessment, and treatment* related to: Initiating communication, Listening with the eyes and brain, Abstracting and inferencing, Understanding perspective, Getting the big picture (gestalt), and Humor and human relationship. This four-module series will provide the learner with specific concepts and strategies that can be utilized in classrooms and homes. This information was developed for students with social learning challenges, such as those with ASD, ADHD, speech and language impairments, etc. However, mainstream teachers and school administrators have also found this information is germane to better understanding all students’ social-emotional learning processes.


*Treatment refers to using conceptual and strategy-based frameworks to help individuals improve their social thinking, skills, and competencies.

Copyright © 2019 Think Social Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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