Social Cognition and Communication

Social Thinking (SocialThinking.com)

By Michelle Garcia Winner

Summary: Children with autism typically have weak “theory of mind” skills. They can have delays in understanding that another person’s thoughts are different from their own, challenges with perspective-taking, and difficulty making inferences from external clues about other people’s thoughts and feelings, skills that are needed to understand social situations and how to respond. Michelle Garcia Winner, a speech and language pathologist and social skills expert, explains, in her large collection of books and resources, that underlying these theory-of-mind skills is social cognition, or, as she calls it, Social Thinking. The Social Thinking approach does not teach rote social skills but rather develops underlying social-cognitive abilities necessary for successful social interaction. The Social Thinking books explain the concepts and provide stories, games, and other therapeutic activities that can be done at home with family, at school, or in individual therapy or social skills groups.

Why we recommend this approach: The Social Thinking approach has been developed over time by Michelle Garcia Winner through her work with children with ASD or with social challenges. Social Thinking is essential for successful social interaction. But it is also critical for safety (e.g. crossing the street, understanding that a person’s intentions can be different than how “nice” they appear) and academic success (e.g. reading comprehension—thinking about fictional characters or historical figures’ thoughts, feelings, and intentions; inferring what the teacher wants the student’s work to demonstrate/reading between the lines in the instructions on an assignment). The approach gives families a useful vocabulary to talk about social skills and behavior as well. Our review details several specific books and resources available at SocialThinking.com and elsewhere that are helpful for children and also adults with autism.

Read our two detailed reviews here and here

Successful Problem-Solving for High-Functioning Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders

By Kerry Mataya and Penney Owens

Summary: Kids on the autism spectrum can have difficulty with problem solving and often need direct instruction to develop effective problem-solving strategies. Kerry Mataya and Penney Owens propose a simple and easy-to-learn strategy for problem solving in their book Successful Problem-Solving for High-Functioning Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders. The target audience for this book is parents and teachers of students with ASD. While the strategies recommended can be used in any setting, most of the examples in the book involve social situations at school. The central component of this approach is a visual support called the Problem-Solving Chart, with a space in the center to write the problem at hand and four possible solutions radiating from the center: Seek Help from an Adult, Talk it Out and Compromise, Let it Go and Move On, and Let it Bother You. Strategies to teach each of these solutions are provided.

Why we recommend this book: Teaching autistic students concrete problem-solving strategies can greatly improve their social skills, self-confidence, independence. The Problem-Solving Chart can be used at home and at school, and information is provided on data collection methods that can be used to measure improvement. Strategies in a FAQ section are given from the point of view of the student and provide excellent examples of how to support good problem solving.

Read our detailed review here
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