Social Communication & Social Thinking®

Social Communication & Social Thinking®

“Social thinking is what we do when we interact with people: we think about them. 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.” – Michelle Garcia Winner

For most of us, social communication is innate and includes the ability to interpret and regulate ourselves around hidden rules. It is an intuitive process that takes a split-second to understand  the nuances and meaning behind a verbal message.

But for others, this ability may be unclear, fleeting or even not in their neurology. For these individuals, social communication and social thinking strategies must be taught. Without these strategies, making friends, academic success, holding a job, and independent living can be sources of constant discomfort, confusion, failure, and disenfranchisement.

Challenges in social communication can adversely affect all aspects of life.

Behaviors Necessary for Successful Social Interaction

  • Listening/attention
  • Eye contact
  • Sustained  focus
  • Patience/self-restraint
  • Topic maintenance
  • Following directions
  • Playing with others
  • Imaginative play or sharing it
  • Turn taking
  • Waiting
  • Sharing interests or materials (versus fixation on own interests or toys)
  • Bonding
  • Flexible play versus repetitive play and interests
  • Seeing and understanding the other’s point of view

Problem Solving

  • Making smart guesses/inferring
  • Understanding the meaning behind a message
  • Organizing and planning to meet a goal


  • Initiating and maintaining
  • Taking turns, asking questions and making comments
  • Seeing, understanding, and relating to the other’s point of view


  • Age appropriate auditory processing of language
  • Age appropriate expressive language
  • Understanding nuanced language, abstract language, and humor beyond the concrete and literal
  • Understanding and creating age appropriate written language


  • Recognizing them in self and others
  • Expressing feelings
  • Empathy
  • Reacting to unexpected or unwanted situations with expected responses (opposed to heightened irritability, anxiety, low self-esteem)

Transitioning and Change

  • Calm responses to interruptions and unplanned changes
  • Flexibility
  • Ability to “go with the flow” when structure or routine varies versus rigid adherence to routine and structure
  • Successful handling of unstructured time

Big Picture

  • Noticing detail without missing the big picture/gestalt
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