In August, several of our team members attended a professional development conference on Social Thinking and social skill development with Michelle Garcia Winner. It was an incredible two days, jam-packed with information, strategies and resources. We are very excited to share these ideas with you in our sessions, but for now, I wanted to share three light bulb moments I experienced at the conference:
Learning social skills = hard
Michelle used the analogy of learning physics. For most of us, the idea (and possibly experience!) of learning physics is daunting. Physics contains many different concepts and theories that make our eyes water and brains bend trying to understand how it works. For many of us (myself included!) our brains just aren’t wired in a way that makes learning and applying these concepts easy. For those with social thinking difficulties, learning social skills is like us learning physics. It’s hard. Very hard! Especially when the brain isn’t wired to make it easy.
It takes a long time
Treatment is a blend of teaching social concepts, strategies and helping our students manage anxiety while working on self-monitoring and self control – all happening in fast moving social situations. It’s not easy. And we need to be prepared to support our students’ development of these skills across their life. Social rules change as we age and experience different school, work and home environments. We often find that our student’s pop back in for another group to ‘refresh’ their skills for the next developmental stage.
Never assume. It makes an ASS out of U and ME!
Even though we might teach a social skill, for example, making eye contact, we can’t assume that the person with social thinking difficulties knows how to interpret the information they have gained from making eye contact. By assuming knowledge based on an observed skill, we might find our students continue to have difficulty processing the world at a deeper more conceptual level. It is very important to take those extra few steps to ensure our students know how to interpret information and what to do next with that info.