The Parish School teaches Social Thinking, a program to designed to teach students social skills to interact with peers and adults. Students utilize social stories, role-playing, and practice social problem solving in a play setting with peers. Social Thinking was founded by Michelle Garcia Winner from San Jose, California. From http://www.socialthinking.com, Michelle defines 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 toward them, which in turn affects how others respond to us, which in turn affects our own emotions.
Many teachers and students utilize techniques, phrases, the superhero, Superflex and the Team of Unthinkables in their teaching and conversations to turn a situation into a teachable social thinking moment. So when I heard that Michelle was giving workshops, I thought this would be a great opportunity to learn more about Social Thinking. Today and tomorrow, I am attending two Social Thinking workshops by Michelle Garcia Winner.
From today’s workshop, “Social Thinking: Preparing for the Transition into Adulthood (and life),” these are some of the biggest points of that stuck out to me:
-Some people develop mental health issues because when they have to make social choices, they let anxiety, fear, and rejection take over even when they know that others like them.
-Anxiety looks different across profiles: some are rigid and want the world to unfold the way they expect it to, some want to hold the world at one point in time or certain age because they have phobias about the world, some realize they are anxious and spend energy becoming more anxious instead of a social fake, while some are resistant and believe their way is the right way.
-Treatment for the anxieties differs, for instance, some need to work on recognize own’s thoughts and that other’s have different thoughts, some need to work on basic level of communication.
-In treatment, therapists and counselors make assumptions with clients. As therapists, we need to break down treatment and avoid assumptions. Clients seek knowledge from the internet and that too is filled with assumptions.
How to Make Friends
-It takes the same organization, planning, and timeline skills to do long-term homework as it takes to keeping a friendship.
-Michelle created a “peer-a-mid” to teach the abstract concept of friends in a concrete manner:
Level 6: Close Friend
Level 5: Bonded Friend
Level 4: Evolving Friendship (make effort)
Level 3: Possible Friendship (less effort because of shared setting)
Level 2: Acquaintance
Level 1: Friendly-Greetings
-Her clients stated, “The loneliest place to be is sitting by oneself in a room with many others.” (ex. school cafeteria)
-The beginning steps to making a friend is to recognize who is around you, learn their names, use eyes to acknowledge them, and say hi.
-About 90% of friendships stall at Level 3: Possible Friendships: work base friends, hanging out in the cafeteria and they do not fill weekend time.
-People can connect through talking about nothing. They do not have to know something to talk about it because they can connect their thought to a key word of another’s sentence.
-Conversations is not all about learning and teaching, it is about connecting to a person’s heart.
Goals and Action Plans
-Teach students to be their inner coach to create and follow through on action plans. Things don’t happen because one talks about it. We have to define it, measure it, and be accountable to make it happen.
-Utilize timed trials, videos, and practice sessions to gain awareness and get a feel for the different way of social interaction.
-Some people have 17 years experience of practicing poor social skills and they need time to practice the new way in a clinical setting to learn it.
-The most tenacious learner will be the most successful. They have the motivation and inner coach to stay involved in their own treatment plan. They are accountable for themselves. They tell therapist what they want and fire them if not needed.
-Learning to advocate for oneself takes a long time and we need to teach students to initiate the discussion between the ages of 9 to 12. By 17, it is too late and when they get to college, the colleges do not respond to the parents.
-Learning that living as a responsible person means you will be uncomfortable at times.
-Parents are dependent organisms who need to be fed with information. They need a little nibble of what’s going on in their child’s life. If you give them enough, they will stop nagging. They will back off and feel less anxious.
-We need to be painfully honest. We did not cause the problem, parents did not cause the problem. The adult world does not care about the problems and when the child is in school, strengths are over-emphasized and weakness are talked about at a smaller degree. When there are 10 people sitting in a meeting to talk about one student, they have many weakness and therapists parade on about strengths. We need to talk about the strengths and how to bump out the weaknesses.
-In writing IEP goals, teachers are sometimes stuck in fantasy and need to set more functional goals for students.
Transition Out of High School
-Many households expect their students to go to college and families need to give permission for the child to not go to college if he or she is not prepared to be internally motivated. Another option is vocational training. College is a safe place to keep a student, yet they may fail out their first year if they are not motivated, organized, socially adapted, independent (laundry, bathing, eating, planning).
-Students and teachers work hard to help students acquire life skills. The student needs to work the hardest to take and learn responsibilities.
-Job coaches need to create a learning environment, teach social rules and social expectations, and organize the dynamic work environment. They need to focus on accuracy and productivity of the worker by developing a data collection for the environment and reward successes.
-We cannot expect total generalizations. For many students, we have to teach old ideas in new settings. They will revert to back to square one and need adult help to utilize their learned knowledge in the new environment.
In working with students who will grow in adolescents and into adulthood, I have a new perspective of the need to teach them advocacy skills, awareness skills, and friendship skills. What do you think?