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Social Thinking Curriculum

Social thinking is social intelligence. It is an understanding about what happens when we interact with other people: we have thoughts about them and they have thoughts about us, and our behaviors impact how others think and feel. The Social Thinking curriculum and treatment approach was originally developed by Michelle Garcia Winner to deconstruct this innately understood social experience for students with social cognitive impairments. More recently, Social Thinking has reached a wider audience because of the innovative vocabulary, tools, and strategies used to teach and explain abstract social concepts. Development of skills such as emotional awareness, perspective taking, problem solving, self-regulation, and executive functioning occurs due to the metacognitive framework of this program. The ultimate goal of Social Thinking is to teach students to reflect upon their behaviors when they are with other people and to learn to think about the thoughts and feelings of others in order to be socially competent individuals.

The Social Thinking curriculum and treatment approach is based on a social cognitive framework of teaching social skills. Within this framework, students are taught specific social skills to help them monitor their learning environment and adjust their behavior according to the changing situations and circumstances they encounter in school. Students are taught to reflect upon their own behaviors, as well as on how their behaviors impact the thoughts and feelings of others around them. Key elements of instruction include noticing social cues, interpreting social cues, and engaging in a range of social problem solving techniques. Social knowledge and the ability to maintain emotional regulation are additional, yet essential, components of this framework.

Currently, many students at King Open require social cognitive training as part of their Individualized Educational Programs. Students with social cognitive impairments require specialized instruction individually or in small groups to teach them strategies and skills to achieve social competency. In order for students to generalize these skills and use them functionally, they require the support of general educators and their peers to practice learned skills across a variety of social contexts. By embedding Social Thinking in the general education setting, King Open will adopt common social-emotional language accessible to all students.

School Wide Implementation
The implementation of Social Thinking as a school-wide social-emotional curriculum will happen in gradual stages in the upcoming school years. During Phase 1, special educators versed in Social Thinking will provide whole class lessons to general education classrooms to model instruction and share knowledge about vocabulary and concepts. Priority will be given to classrooms based on the social cognitive needs of students. In Phase 2, special educators will co-teach with general education teachers, and in Phase 3 general educators will be expected to teach and use the Social Thinking framework in their classrooms given on going professional development and support provided by Special Education staff.