Return to site

Social thinking affects social skills?

· Social Thinking

The dictionary defines soft skills as personal attributes that enable effective, harmonious interactions.  You may have heard of these other words -  social skills, interpersonal skills or people skills ... they all mean the same thing.

For children with learning difficulties or those with ASD ... it could be the hardest skills to learn. I've often heard from parents that their child has problem making friends or are unable to keep friends. One mom told me that she is puzzled that her son is so intelligent in all the academic works in school and in fact is in a gifted program BUT he is a lonely boy. This boy spent all his recess period in the school library reading ... all by himself.  

I've met him.  He has a sweet personality and he wants friends.  So we begin a journey to learn about how to develop soft skills.  Together with his mom, we meet weekly to discuss how to present the 'tools' to learn soft skills. 

Lesson one was to introduce him to the awareness that people are ALWAYS having thoughts about others around him and of each other.  People stay nearby or interact with one another when they form comfortable thoughts of each other.  When someone has an uncomfortable thought and it continues to grow ... it is likely that the person will not engage anymore in conversation or there could be potential conflicts.  Through the intervention he eventually learns that there are social norms and hidden social rules that needs to be figured out.  When we follow these hidden social rules ... others are comfortable around us and wants to engage with us.  Each week , we meet and discuss and role played the soft skills and provide him with strategies to learn how to 'mind read' or take perspectives.  It's not easy to teach soft skills as the social convention changes with different cultural norms.  Next was to teach him conversational skills with the emphasis on staying on topic of conversation and learning HOW to add to the conversation.  This include also turn taking and reading the body language of others and making adjustment to his own behaviour SO THAT others continue to be comfortable around him.  

I want to give credit to the works of Michelle Garcia Winner ... of whom I have the privilege to meet and learn about her research and her work.  Michelle is the founder and trainer for the program called Social Thinking.  Michelle develop frameworks that therapists and parents can learn and begin teaching the soft skills.  She developed the 4 steps of communication and the 4 steps of perspective taking as a wonderful guide to people with learning needs and ASD to learn and develop their soft skills.  These are not 4 steps instructions ! rather I view them as anchors or 'reflection points' that unfold the complicated concepts of communications and perspective taking.  The more I dwell in this ... the more I am in agreement that this a vital 'key' that ALL children with ASD or learning difficulties need and MUST develop.

Again I find Feuerstein's method sits nicely with her program and so in my coaching sessions with caregivers I have combined the two together and transferred these skills to them. For more enquiry, please contact me through email or text and a consultation time can be set up.