Introduction to Social Thinking

By Michelle Garcia Winner, CCC-SLP

July, 2016

Social thinking is what we do when we share space with others and when sending an email, sitting in a classroom, lining up at the grocery store, reading a work of fiction, watching a funny video clip, participating in a business meeting, driving in traffic, and a host of other daily activities that involve our social interpretation and related reactions. We consider the context; take in the thoughts, emotions and intentions of the people with whom we are interacting, and use that information to determine how we respond. How we think about people affects how we behave, which in turn affects how others respond to us, which in turn affects our own emotional internal and external responses. It’s an incredibly complex process that most of us take for granted.

Our social thinking develops naturally and becomes intuitive for most of us. Yet, for many individuals this process is anything but natural. Individuals with social learning challenges may find the process of thinking about what others are thinking and then using social skills in the exact moment they are needed incredibly complicated. And, one’s social thinking has little relationship with conventional measures of intelligence. In fact, many people score high on IQ and standardized tests but do not intuitively learn the basics or the nuances of social communication and interaction.

I developed the Social Thinking® treatment methodology as a way to enhance and improve social thinking abilities, regardless of diagnostic label. (Often there isn’t a diagnosis.) Professionals and parents alike are using these methods to build social thinking and related social skills. Social Thinking concepts and strategies are designed for people with social learning challenges with near average to way above average language skills and IQThe teachings of Social Thinking also are widely used to help educate parents and professionals as to how to systemize and teach about information that we traditionally have never taught before. Given the explicit nature of these social-emotional teachings, they are also being adopted for use with all students to encourage improved social problem solving. 

Michelle Garcia Winner is the originator of Social Thinking, a teaching methodology consisting of the Social Thinking Vocabulary, social concepts and strategies, original characters, and curricula with specific materials geared to different age ranges spanning preschool children to adults. Learn more at  

Return to top