Level 3: Expressive Language
I love teaching and working on pragmatic language skills with my higher level students. Being a good conversationalist is very difficult for our students with social language challenges. For these students those social language deficits make our students stand out from their typically developing peers.
A few years ago I started using Social Thinking Material from Michelle Garcia Winner and my students love it! With my older higher functioning students, I am now working on Superflex (a superhero social thinking curriculum) and learning about the sneaky Unthinkables that attack our brains! If I walk in the classroom with a new Superflex material or book, I can barely get in the door before the students are trying to see what we are doing that day or taking the material out of my hand!
For those of you new to Social Thinking it is definitely worth checking out. It has been so beneficial for my higher functioning students and fun to teach. There is so much material and resources from Michelle Garcia Winner you can use with your students. Michelle Garcia winner also has resources and material for preschool students which I’ll talk about at a later time.
What is Social Thinking? – “Social thinking is what we do when we interact with people: we think about them. And 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.” (socialthinking.com)
Who can I use it with? Many of my students have social language challenges. The Social Thinking methods to build social thinking and related skills can be used with young preschool students all the way through adulthood. Social Thinking challenges are “commonly experienced by individuals with autism spectrum disorders (high-functioning), social communication disorder, Asperger’s, ADHD, nonverbal learning disability (NLD) and similar diagnoses, children and adults experiencing social learning difficulties often have received no diagnosis.” (socialthinking.com).
How do I get started? If you want to start learning more information about Social Thinking I would recommend first getting the book Thinking About You Thinking About Me, 2nd Edition by Michelle Garcia Winner. Yes it’s a big book and it hard to take time to read when we as teachers and therapists have some much other responsibilities and lesson planning to do but it is worth it! It really outlines what Social Thinking is, how to assess it, and strategies to build communication skills.
How to use it in the Classroom:
- You are a Social Detective!
The first book to use with your higher functioning students should be You are a Social Detective! This book teaches our student to be their own social detective. Our students need to work on using their eyes, ears, and brains to figure out what others doing and what others’ words/actions really mean. It is a fun way to help students develop these critical social skills. This book has lots of great information and follow up activities you can do to practice being a good social detective. Check out the book at socialthinking.com. There is even an interactive CD to pair with the book. This interactive CD presents these social thinking concepts you worked on with the book. The students practice using their social “tools” (eyes, ears, and brain) to understand the social situation and what others are thinking and feeling in these situations. The students learn how to make a “smart guess” about what the person in the situation should say/do next and how their actions/words impact others.
- Superflex: Superflex Takes on Rock Brian and the Team of Unthinkables
Make sure your students have a solid foundation of the Social Detective concepts of thinking with your eyes, ears, and brain to be a good social detective before you move on to the Superflex Curriculum. The first book to use is Superflex: Superflex Takes on Rock Brain and the Team of Unthinkables. This book introduces the main character Aiden and how he gets his Superflex powers to help save Social Town. It teachers the students about their own Superflex powers they have in their brain to take on the Team of Unthinkables. All of the Unthinkables have different powers that can invade our brains and cause those “unexpected” behaviors to occur. I think using cartoon characters help the students identify those negative behaviors and understand why those behaviors may impact what others think about you without feeling bad about themselves. It helps the students talk about how everyone gets attacked by these Unthinkables and we have to use our Superflex powers to defeat the Unthinkables. Some of the Unthinkables include Rock Brian, Glassman, Mean Jean, and Brain Eater.
According to Michelle Garcia Winner – “Good social skills can be defined as ‘adapting efficiently in each context,’ meaning we have to read the hidden social rules in each social situation and then regulate our physical presence eyes, language, emotions, reactions.” This requires flexible thinking which can be extremely difficult for our students with social language challenges. Using this Superflex curriculum, I have seen great improvement with my own students’ ability to use their “social smarts” in social situations with their teachers and peers. My students still have difficulty and challenges in social situations but using the language and concepts from this curriculum has helped increase conversational skills and relationships with peers, reduce the extent or length of unexpected social behaviors, and help the students regulate themselves or calm down quicker when unexpected events occur in their environment.
See what Michelle Garcia Winner has to offer for your students who are ready and need to work on social language skills. – www.socialthinking.com