In May, I had the opportunity to participate in a continuing education seminar by Michelle Garcia Winner, the founder of Social Thinking. Social Thinking is an organization dedicated to providing teachers, therapists, and parents working with children on the Autism Spectrum with practical theories and materials. The term Social Thinking refers to social skills and so much more. It includes taking perspective of self, others, and the world around you, problem solving, sustaining attention to tasks, and using/understanding emotions.
The Social Thinking conference provided me with new found passion and direction for therapy sessions. I found myself for days after the conference reflecting on and sharing the ways of Michelle Garcia Winner to colleagues, friends, and family. I find her materials easy-to-use, and although her products are worth the investment, not a necessity.
One theory and therapy technique that stuck out to me was Michelle's take on eye contact. We think with our eyes because what our eyes are looking at is what they are thinking about. Simply stated and so true! One activity that I’ve completed with clients to target this concept is a slightly modified game of eye spy. While playing the game do not use any words to describe the item, just look with your eyes. The first few turns I have to exaggerate my gaze to help my clients find the item, but after a few rounds my clients typically catch on. As we play I teach that we think with our eyes all the time and when my eyes are looking at you, I am thinking about you, when they are looking at the clock they are thinking about the clock. Another way to target this concept is to model and teach how you are thinking with your eyes as you move through your everyday activities. For example, while driving you could say, “see how Mommy is thinking about the road and the other cars because Mommy is looking forward at the road and other cars.” You could also bring this concept to life by pointing out when your child is playing with his or her toys, “I see that you are thinking about your Legos because your eyes are looking at your Legos.” Many opportunities like these happen on a daily basis. I encourage you to think out loud as frequently as possible. Children learn the complex skill of self-talk through this type of modeling. Self-talk is that little internal voice that tells us, “Remember to put the soap in the dishwasher, close it, and press start.” It also helps to regulate us when we are upset, excited, scared, surprised, angry, ect by saying to us, “it’s ok, that loud boom was just thunder.” The more you think out loud and talk through these situations your child will take this in and continue to develop their own self-talk.
By explicitly teaching these skills we can increase an individual’s ability to: sustain attention to a task, initiate a task, gain perspective taking skills, problem solve, interrupt verbal and non-verbal language, emotional regulation, and much more!
If you have concerns that your child might be struggling with one of the above mentioned skills please check out www.socialthinking.com for more resources and please contact me at The Speech Spot. I would be happy to talk in more detail about your concern or any other speech or language concern you may have. Thank you!