The Autism Society Event and Education Recordings Archive

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Autism Society records most keynote and concurrent sessions at their annual conferences. You can see and hear those recordings by purchasing full online access, or individual recordings.

5746 Using Social Thinking® Skills As A Means to Increase Social Competence [ASHA Session]

Thursday, July 7, 2011: 3:15 PM-4:30 PM
Captiva 1&2 (Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center)
Direct social skills instruction is a critical feature for children and adolescents on the autism spectrum. We will demonstrate the connection between social thinking® and the development of social skills by showcasing interactive, developed activities using current technology. Activities will include examples of skill-building lessons, group problem solving, role playing, and Social Thinking® flow charts. Resources will be provided that enable teachers, therapists, and other professionals to replicate instructional materials and strategies. Social skills are a set of skills that people use to interact and communicate with others.  Social rules are created, communicated, and changed in verbal and nonverbal ways.  Social thinking® is a way to train your brain to help you figure out the people around you- what they may be thinking, how that compares to what you’re thinking, and how to vary your actions based on what you and other people are thinking (Winner, 2008).  Successful social thinkers consider the points of view, emotions, thoughts, beliefs, prior knowledge and intentions of others. According to Michelle Garcia Winner, Social Thinking® is required prior to the development of social skills. 

This presentation represents work and materials that have evolved in a quest to address social skills instruction as it relates to social thinking concepts. These concepts have been used with elementary and middle school students on the autism spectrum in a classroom, small group, and summer program.  By utilizing Social Thinking® concepts, school based technology and creatively approaching instructional materials, this team makes it work for their students, staff, and families.

Social skills include a set of guidelines that are not generally taught, they are assumed.   Typical students entering kindergarten have basic social thinking abilities (a solid social operating system-Michelle Garcia Winner).  These include knowing others have thoughts different from theirs, knowing that they can learn by watching others, knowing what nonverbal information to look for, knowing what verbal communication needs to be attended to related to the teacher and knowing how to use social thinking® skills to regulate their own behavior in groups. Individuals with autism typically do not have these set of skills and these skills have to be explicitly taught through direct instruction. Specifically students with Higher Functioning autism/Asperger Syndrome need to be taught the “Why” behind learning social skills and how it directly applies to them.

Instruction in Social Thinking®, in order to be meaningful and promote generalization, needs to be collaboration between teachers, therapists, parents, and other professionals.  The strategies, materials and activities that will be presented to develop social thinking® are supported in the literature related to theory of mind, central coherence, and flexible thinking.  In addition, adaptations of current evidenced based Social Thinking® curricula will be presented, identifying the key components and supporting each of the key components with teacher-made adaptations using visual supports, assistive technology, and interactive whiteboards.

Learning Objectives:

  • Identify opportunities to incorporate social thinking instruction into social skills development
  • Match learning activities to students' social skill needs
  • Explore instructional adaptations to Social Thinking® materials
  • Maximize mainstream technology for Social Thinking® instruction
  • Describe effective strategies that allow students to self monitor their social interactions

Content Area: Social Skills


Laura Haratine, M.Ed., BCBA
Behavior Specialist
Audubon Park Elementary School

Laura Haratine is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and Behavior Specialist at Audubon Park Elementary School in Orlando, FL. Laura has taught social skills to students with ASD for six years. This past summer she helped develop and implement a ‘Social Thinking Camp’ for children with ASD in Orlando, Florida.

Kimberly Coppola, M.Ed.
Autism Resource Teacher
Thornebrooke Elementary School

Kimberly Coppola is an autism teacher at Thornebrooke Elementary in Ocoee, Florida. She has taught social skills to campers at Camp Lee Mar in Pennsylvania for nine summers. This past summer she helped develop and implement a four week summer ‘Social Thinking Camp’ for children with ASD in Orlando, Florida.

Marijane Bethel, M.S., CCC-SLP
Speech and Language Pathologist
Orange County Public Schools

Marijane Bethel is a Speech/Language Pathologist who serves students with autism spectrum disorder in elementary and middle school settings and provides support and resources to colleagues in Orange County Public Schools. She completed a Mentor-Training Program in 2007 at the Social Thinking Center in San Jose, California.