Friday, April 21, 2017

Terese Jurgensen ~ Director of Student Services ~





To Celebrate Autism Awareness Month - I am highlighting the work of Michelle Garcia Winner and the Social Thinking Competency Model:


The Social Thinking Social Competency Model

Here at Social Thinking we often say “language is the behavior of the mind.” It helps lead both the interventionist and the client to new levels of understanding about the social learning process. 

As part of the Social Thinking Methodology we’ve created evidence-based conceptual teachings for interventionists (such as this article), we have treatment frameworks to use with select clients as well as interventionists (e.g., this visual tool - our Social Competency Model), and we also offer tools and strategies, which are often showcased through our Social Thinking Vocabulary (STV) some examples of which are provided above. Our STV are terms mostly created by Social Thinking that in and of themselves, foster a deeper teaching of the social learning process. 

My colleagues and I have spent years trying to explain to interventionists that our social learning process requires more than only teaching eye-contact, auditory processing and social skills if the goal for our students is for them to be socially competent. The STV in general, and the terms that follow specifically, are used to better explain social competencies to the individuals with whom we work and are also incorporated into our Social Competency Model (SCM), as illustrated below.


  • Think With Your Eyes. This core Social Thinking Vocabulary concept sits at the base of our SCM visual (see diagram that follows). One of the many things individuals need to do as part of the social process is to actively attend to social information. Social attention fuels their overall success in this process, yet many of our students struggle with social attention. As therapists we build social attention by teaching our students strategies to try and encourage their joint attention and related awareness of what’s happening in time and space around them. From there we teach our verbal students to “think with their eyes” and ears to gather information. This information gathering process is the first step in helping our students achieve their social goals.
  • Social Input. To represent the foundational part of our SCM, Pam and I created the term “Social Input.” Social Input refers to all information gathered of any type (sensory, auditory, visual spatial, memories, prior learning) that contributes to our students’ ability to make meaning of what’s happening around them. Social Input is a very large part of the overall SCM, as it involves huge aspects of cognitive processing, memory, etc. In this diagram we have simplified what goes into Social Input, but consider this a vast landscape summarized as “thinking” or “cognition” or “private events”, depending on your field of study.
  • Socially-Based Problem Solving. The line that divides Social Input and Social Output is what we describe as socially-based problem solving. Why not just call it problem solving? Here’s why. Many of our students have terrific scientific problem solving skills. Yet they struggle when it comes to noticing social information, taking it in, and then using all this Social Input to figure out how to problem solve a situation and figure out their social response. To exhibit expected or appropriate social responses, we have to consider the specific context of the situation, other people’s thoughts and feelings, social expectations and our clients’ own personal goals related to the response. Given that many of our students demonstrate a clear ability to scientifically problem solve and a clear weakness in socially-based problem solving, we refer to problem solving that involves considering others’ thoughts and feelings as socially-based problem solving.

  • Social Output. Social Output is everything we do as a result of our socially-based problem solving. In our diagram it’s the area above the orange line and it has at least three distinct but overlapping parts:

  1. Social Skills: Any behavior exhibited by a person that other people perceive as “social skills”
  2. Language Use: Our ability to use language to convey our specific message in the manner we want it to be interpreted
  3. Social-Academic Responses*: Anything a student does as a response related to their goal to participate in the classroom and curriculum. 
At Howard-Winn CSD, we are using Social Learning Competencies across all grade levels and curriculum to support all students cognitively, socially and emotionally to be good problem solvers and social thinkers!

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Junior and Senior Prom is this weekend! Please remind all of our students to be safe and to have fun!

Enjoy the beautiful weekend!


If you need to reach me, Terese Jurgensen
Please feel free to do so!
(563) 929-6344
tjurgensen@howard-winn.k12.ia.us




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