As the speech language pathologist at Gateway my role is to support teachers with strategies to enhance their lessons through the use of visual aids, graphic organizers, and class discussions that allow the students to practice their oral and written language skills. In addition to providing classroom support, I am also working with students to develop improved social cognition skills. Social cognition, or social thinking, is required prior to the development of social skills. According to Michelle Garcia Winner, one of the pioneers of Social Thinking, “successful social thinkers consider the points of view, emotions, thoughts, beliefs, prior knowledge and intentions of others. For most of us this is an intuitive process. We determine the meanings behind the messages communicated by others and how to respond to them within seconds! Social thinking occurs everywhere, when we talk, share space, walk down the street, even when we read a novel and relate to our pets. It is an intelligence that integrates information across home, work and community settings – something we usually take for granted!” Dr. Winter has a website that offers a wealth of information on the subject and serves as an excellent resource for parents.
Many students have difficulty on some level with social cognition and metacognition. Metacognition is the awareness and understanding of one’s own thinking and cognitive processes. Basically, metacognition helps a person plan ahead, decide which steps to take and how to take them, carry out the plan, and self-check along the way. Think about the steps a person would take to plan for a week long family vacation, and actually leave on time with everything needed. That is metacognition at work!
As parents and educators, trying to incorporate a piece of social cognition and metacognition into a child’s daily routine might seem overwhelming, but it can actually be broken down into two simple questions: “What’s your plan?” and “What’s (name) thinking?”
Whether it’s getting dressed, feeding the dog, doing a research project, or making a presentation to a boss, our lives are full of multiple plans which we carry out throughout the day. The “What’s your plan?” question helps a child figure out the best course of action for a successful day. Improving social thinking is focused through the intentional question, “What’s (name) thinking?” Another way to present that question is “What are the words (name) is saying in his/her head?” Once the child is able to respond with a thought about another’s thoughts, then the student will need to decide what he will do with that information.
Caroline Serrett, M.S., CCC-SLP