What is Social Thinking?
Social thinking is what we do when we interact with people: we think about them. How we think about people affects how we behave, which in turn affects how others respond to us, which in turn affects our own emotions. When we share space with another human, whether we are with friends, sending an email, in a classroom or at the grocery store, we take in the thoughts, emotions and intentions of the people we are interacting with.
Most of us have developed our communications sense from birth onwards, steadily observing and acquiring social information and learning how to respond to people. Because social thinking is an intuitive process, we usually take it for granted. But for many individuals, this process is anything but natural. And this often has nothing to do with conventional measures of intelligence. In fact, many people score high on IQ and standardized tests, yet do not intuitively learn the nuances of social communication and interaction. Cherry Gulch professionals utilize a treatment framework and curriculum developed by Michelle Garcia Winner that target improving individual social thinking abilities, regardless of diagnostic label.
Social Thinking strategies share common traits with "social skills" teachings but differ in that Social Thinking builds specific thinking strategies that occur prior to social communication and interaction. Social Thinking strategies include teaching students:
How their own social minds work - why they and others react and respond the way they do;
How their behaviors affect the way others perceive and respond to them;
And how this affects their own emotions, responses to and relationships with others across different social contexts.
The goal in teaching students at Cherry Gulch Social Thinking is that students will learn to recognize that they and others have different perceptions and abilities to process social information. They will also learn to navigate social interactions and communications in order to adapt and respond positively to the people and situations around them.
Currently Cherry Gulch has encompassed the Social Thinking model throughout the program by establishing a common vocabulary for staff and students, weekly Social Thinking groups, parent education and in the moment coaching. Moving forward the interdisciplinary team at Cherry Gulch is invested in expanding the Social Thinking model.
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