How Does Social Thinking® Develop?
The development of Social Thinking® is an innate process that begins in the early stages of infancy and starts with joint attention or the shared attention of two people on one object. It differs from social skills in that instead of focusing on the actions of our students such as eye contact and turn taking, Social Thinking focuses on the thought processes behind the action. The ILAUGH model was created by Michele Garcia Winner, to assess a student's social learning style and help identify their core deficits. The ILAUGH model stands for the following:
I = Initiating
L = Listening with Eyes and Brain
A = Abstracting and INferencing
U = Understanding Perspective
G = Getting the Big Picture (Gestalt)
H = Humor and Human Relatedness
So How Do We Teach Social Thinking®?
We can teach Social Thinking® by training resilience or the ability to bounce back and cope when things don't go our way. By teaching resilience we can help our students feel confident to solve a problem as it arises, learn to realize when we should "let it go", and reflect upon our mistakes so that they become teachable moments.
The first step is to teach the vocabulary of the program which is explicit and descriptive. It is important to avoid subjective terms when offering praise to our students. Instead of teaching students to "be polite", or "play nice" we should provide them with expected and unexpected behaviors in a given situation. For example, we usually see the following classroom rules:
1. Listen to the teacher.
2. Pay attention.
3. Be nice to others.
This words are very subjective and do not clearly explain what is expected. We can break down each one and provide concrete examples for our students. Instead of saying "Pay attention." We could provide expected behaviors like: "Make sure our body is in the group. Use whole body listening including looking with our eyes, listening with our ears, and thinking with our minds. In order to be explicit, we must also provide non-examples or unexpected behaviors. These would include "Sitting outside of the group. Looking at something other than the teacher such as a book, and thinking about recess time instead of the lesson.
The Social Thinking Curriculum® is built upon 10 concepts. These lessons should be taught sequentially, although exposing students to this vocabulary in a natural setting and in context and can exposure them to these terms ahead of time and build background knowledge. Below are the concepts. Remember each lesson builds upon the next, so make sure to follow the hierarchy.
- What is a thought? Use a thought bubble as a visualization strategy by attaching a thought bubble to a popsicle stick and hold it up to your head.
- How do you teach feelings in context? We can teach feelings through pictures, but make sure to draw attention to the context of the picture. It is important to use pictures with a background, not just a snapshot of a face to provide meaningful contexts for students.
-Students learn to identify the difference between their own plan and the group plan. Knowing the group plan provides the context for anticipating what will happen next and what is expected.
-When children think with their eyes, they gather information about what is happening around them. Pipe cleaners or wiki sticks can provide visuals for students when learning this concept. Reading the books Duck on a Bike by David Shannon drawing attention to the illustrations can help teach this skill. Shaun the Sheep is
a series of wordless animated shorts which can provide a catalyst for inferential talking points about what the characters see, know, think, guess, plan, and on and so on.
-When your body is in the group, it sends a non-verbal message that you are following the group plan and interested in others. Teaching appropriate physical distance between yourself and others can be a challenge for children who have difficulty with self-regulation. Playing a game of freeze dance and then analyzing physical distance when the music stops is a great activity to reinforce this skill. Books like Wombat Walkabout by Carol Diggory Shields and Personal Space Camp by Julia Cook can help teach this skill as well.
-Listening involves the whole body, not just your ears. Whole body listening shows students to make their brain available to take in information, figure out what is going on, and show other people we are listening and thinking about them. Listening Larry was developed by Elizabeth Sautter and Kristen Wilson.
-There are unstated and hidden rules in every situation. The hidden rules are what needs to be explicitly taught. Making a T-chart with expected and unexpected behaviors in a variety of social settings is a great activity when teaching this concept.
Using "What's Wrong With this Picture" by Highlight Magazine is a fun way to target this skill. Books like How do Dinosaurs Eat? by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague can also reinforce this skill. Cookie Monster demonstrates "How to Wait" in the following video:
-Even though we may not know the answer, we can still make smart guesses based upon what we know. Putting materials into a box and asking students to "infer" what we will work on today allows them practice opportunities to develop this skill. Mystery bags and playing games like "What's in my purse?" are also fun activities.
-Sometimes we need to change our plan. Being flexible is our ability to adapt to new situations. Some situations are sticky and we "get stuck". If our thinking is stuck we are unable to change what we are doing or thinking based upon what is happening around us. The book series Scary Squirrel by Melanie Watt and Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed by Eileen Christelow can providing meaningful lessons in context when targeting this skill.
-Problems come in all sizes. Big problems require big reactions, but small problems should only receive small reactions. By building Self Talk, students can learn to assess if their reaction to a problem matches the problem they are facing. Books like Stuck by Oliver Jeffers and the game I Can Do That by Dr. Seuss can help develop these skills and build confidence and resilience. The Zones of Regulation Curriculum by Leah Kuypers explores these concepts as well.
-Imaginative play allows students to share ideas and sustain play interactions. When playing with a peer, a student must learn to coordinate his or her own ideas, goals, and interests with another person while maintaining a Group Plan. Not a Box by Antoinette Portis can be viewed here and is also available in book format.
-Elisa Cartagena, M.S. CCC-SLP
Speech and Language Pathologist
As the lead therapist and owner of Teach Beyond Speech Therapy Services, LLC., Elisa Cartagena provides academically relevant speech therapy for children from preschool through adolescence throughout the Greater Fort Lauderdale of Broward County including Davie, Plantation, Sunrise, and Weston. She has over 15 years of experience in the education field that includes classroom teaching, ESE education, and speech and language therapy services.
Keywords: social thinking, conference, review, summary, key information, terms