Below is a copy of an email and than additional notes from an amazing workshop
I went to May 8th and 9th by Michelle Garcia Winner. The intention of this
blog is to hope that you either go to her conference or buy her easy to use
books to help yourself, your child or student. Apologies for the format but
copying does not work well on this site and maybe some day I will get the time
to clean it up.
Hello Wonderful POAC-NoVA Families,
I attended the Michelle Garcia-Winner conference yesterday and today in
Baltimore on Social Thinking and learned a lot.
I wanted to share some of my notes for those interested and will put the
rest up on my blog later so I don’t spam the group and those not
interested. I hope this is useful to some of you and those who have
seen Michelle and want to share input or endorse her for parents to see
please do so. I would not have thought to go see her were it not for a
friend Katy who mentioned the class and I am glad I went.
In as close to the order as I can keep it to the power point here is a
lot of the first day. Please remember this was my attempt at
understanding her message and not necessarily her message or what others
might understand it to mean. I injected a little of my own thoughts to
this but 99% of the meat of the information is her’s.
She mentioned she believes kids should be grouped by ability not label
so that they are working on the same things at the same time with regard
to Social Thinking.
Social Thinking is the ability to consider your own and others thoughts,
emotions, beliefs, intentions, knowledge, etc to help interpret and
respond to the information in your mind and possibly through social
If you only have one plan so plan A will call it you have planned for
anxiety. Many things your do in life will require that you have a plan
A, B and C with hopes that one of these will work out. Teach kids to
have a back up plan to reduce frustration and rigidity.
A pretty large part of being social is not being completely honest.
example: your friend is boring you to tears with her tale of returning
that ugly birthday gift to the TJ Maxx and the line….yes, I am now
bored too but you smile and endure it because she is your friend and
most conversations do not involve retail sales excursions. Honesty
might be getting up to go to the bathroom while she is telling her story
or reading email on your phone but those things are not conducive to
friendship in many people’s eyes.
At 5 start thinking about your kids like they are 25 because many social
thinking skills develop over years not months and you should start
working on them.
Critical thinking starts in 3rd grade and curriculum becomes much harder
and continues to get harder until they are out of school.
Where your child is on the social radar system (on the social thinking
website) in 3rd grade is pretty much where they will stay but with lots
of effort you can get them to the top of that group but only with effort.
Adult World is defined by a lack of accommodations. If you require a
great deal of accommodations it is really hard to have or keep a job.
If you have a behaviors intervention plan when you graduate from high
school it will be incredibly hard for you to find and keep a job.
Teach kids how to self advocate this is critical.
She is slightly more negative about future prospects of kids than I am
and at points I felt like she did not appreciate that all intelligence
is not social which makes many of these people smart in ways we can’t
imagine but in her defense the class was on social thinking.
Teach kids how NOT to look friendly. People can and will take advantage
of them if they do not understand that compliance only goes so far.
Think about what expectations you have for people. Then think that they
also have expectations of you.
Your intentions have nothing to do with peoples interpretations. Telling
someone they spelled something wrong in your opinion might be a kind
thing to do but in their opinion you are a jerk for mentioning it. Huge
issue with our kids who think corrective feedback is helpful to peers.
Understand your setting as this will dictate your behavior. You don’t
talk to someone in the classroom the way you speak to them on the play
ground or at a restaurant.
Adaption is the key!
What is said to people is less important than how you make them feel.
Inflection, eye contact, body language project the rest of the story.
Don’t share information with people that they already know *** so many
parents will reinforce a child repeatedly telling the same story which
is a great way to annoy potential friends and employers. Further
playing Captain Obvious by pointing out things people see is also not
endearing. Say PAUSE to your child when this happens and kindly remind
them this is something they have shared before or that you also have
eyes and can see that it’s a blue car next to you in the parking lot but
take care not to be rude or unkind just matter of fact.
Her books were so great I bought 4! not including the book I had her
father sign about his life in Auschwitz and afterwards as a survivor of
I will blog more info tomorrow but it has been a truly long 2 days with
the commute in rainy traffic so please Google pvbia momma social
thinking for the details if your so inclined.
State: “Pause, do I already know that?” when things are repeated or obvious to
keep from rewarding annoying behavior but BE KIND and say it the way you want
to hear it.
People share emotions. Many people know this but don’t take it for granted
that your learner does. example: 9/11 was very sad for many people.
Use “thinking with our eyes” as a protocol to help learner/kid understand
that people are sending many messages non-verbally. example: looking at a
glass of water because they are thirst and you should offer them a drink,
looking inside your house because they would like to be invited in (for this
go back to teaching your kids to look not friendly and also consider if this
is someone you should allow in), looking at the door because they want to
A great game to play to work on eye contact is standing in a circle with
initially very few people bounce the ball to whoever is looking at you ONLY.
Do not pass the ball unless that person is “thinking with their eyes” and
should they get frustrated and leave the group continue the game ignoring
the behavior. If they rejoin the group prompt the group to mention that this
person would not look at them so they were not given the ball. This game will
likely only work with intermediate-advanced kids. Reading her books will
offer a great deal more info on why looking someone in the eyes is valuable
and that grabbing someone by the face stating,”look at me” is NOT good
teaching. You want the learner to see the value in order to implement it
on their own.
The book Autism is Context Blindness was mentioned as worthwhile.
Work on “I hope” vs. “I will” so fantasy vs. reality to set up more
realistic expectations. Many of our kids get hung up on what they want verses
what is practical and using different language can help…start this early
to help cement it …as with most of what she says.
Weaker social minds usually means more literal/less socially aware
When walking into a room attempt to sum up the mood or what is going on
very quickly. I think you could make a fun game out of this using your
family as actors to try and convey very obvious moods initially like loud
grief or and later fade into more subtle ques like anticipation. Neuro
typical people sum up situations in milliseconds. Try and make a game
out of speed of recognition.
One of the most critical skills for social ability is attention span.
Observation is a big part of that but happens quickly. If you learner/kid
walks up and starts speaking to you in the middle of a conversation
(and is not in middle school) they have missed the observation part of
Don’t compare kids with typically developing children compare them to
themselves and how far they have come!
The highest of the socially challenged learner is the least! attractive to
the neuro typical most of the time because they feel prideful about “helping”
or mentoring kids with more challenges and embarrassed to be associated with
the “weird kid” (my words and Terry Pratchett’s not Michelle’s). It changes
the status of a kid to associate with the “nuance learner” and elevates
status to be kind to the “emerging” social skills learner. I would say
that for those of us with typical kids or even ourselves we might consider
that someone should not have to be sitting in a wheelchair or be blind for
us to think about treating them with respect. Most parents are quick to
point out that you should be nice to the boy with Downs but so many enjoy
a laugh with their child about the kid who wears a suit coat to school each
day without thinking that they are teaching their child intolerance while
explaining to the rest of us what great parents they are! I personally have
seen a lot of this having a child in public school for the last 10 years
and being told by numerous parents of bullies how they have taught their child
to be nice to the disabled….but my son does not look “disabled” just
different and their child’s social standing is far more important than their
moral compass. By the way ….don’t be nice to someone because they are in
a wheel chair it’s patronizing and they know it! my thoughts again NOT
Michelle’s but this is more lengthy Shannon talk than Michelle lecture…okay
maybe Shannon Rant.
Michelle’s group only prognosticates from 3rd grade and beyond. If your child
is solidly functiontion in a specific profile in 3rd grade they will most
likely stay at that level across their life. However, they will improve
compared to themselves!!
Okay, I lied…this is still day 1 of a 2 day conference and I need to get
other stuff done so….I will write more tomorrow.
All For Our Children,