Thursday, November 7, 2013

Social Thinking

Yesterday, I participated in an email conversation with parents of Autistic children.  One of the main concerns of parents was their children making friends.  I thought this would be a great topic for today’s blog.  So, today, I will discuss the foundation of social skills and making friends – social thinking. 
In the past, I have attended Michelle Garcia Winner’s “Social Thinking® Across the Home and School Day” seminar.  The focus of the conversation concerned what encompasses social thinking and its role in daily conversation.
What is social thinking?  Generally, it is the ability to consider your own and others’ thoughts, emotions and beliefs to help interpret and respond to the information in your mind – and possibly through your social and behavioral interactions.
For example, when meeting someone for the first time, it is polite to look the person in the eyes and introduce yourself. 
This seems natural and second nature, right?  Not necessarily.  From the time children are born, they mimic adults’ social interactions and learn how to effectively share space.  Although, some children can decipher “hidden agendas” in conversations and understand underlying social mores, some need more explicit social direction.
Does this sound familiar?  Have you ever seen a child walk over to a pregnant woman and ask “Why are you fat?”   Although deemed cute if the child is elementary school-aged, it is less endearing if the child is a teenager.
It is important to remember that social skills increase significantly in nuance and sophistication with age.  Some children’s “errors” are due to the fact that they simply don’t recognize the rules have changed.  These children need additional guidance in adapting their behavior effectively based on the situation and what they know about the people involved.  This assistance will help illicit the reaction and response that are the social mores.
This topic is wonderfully thought provoking and always leaves me with a few “To-Do’s.”  As a fitness trainer working with special needs children, how can I help them develop the ability to empathize and better interpret/respond to social interactions?  As an instructor, how can I better lead by social example?
How can we as parents become better communicators and teach our children how to use social thinking to make new friends?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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