Monday, July 8, 2013

Thinking about Social Thinking®, and the iPad Essential of Album Creation

I am really happy to have been asked to be part of the Social Thinking® Blogging Team, a group of folks who will be writing about some of the products and conferences offered that are related to the Social Thinking approach, based on the work of Michelle Garcia Winner. We agreed that since this is a tech-infused place, I would be featuring some of the Social Thinking products over the coming months along with a technology tie-in. This aligns well with my experience in presenting at the Social Thinking Provider's Conferences about webtools and apps that, though not designed for supporting social cognition, can easily be leveraged to that end.

The folks at Social Thinking asked us to start with Thinking about YOU, Thinking about ME: Teaching perspective taking and Social Thinking to persons with Social Cognitive Learning Challenges, 2nd Edition. This is perfect, as this book is where I would recommend anyone starting when exploring implementation of Social Thinking in your practice. Summer is a great time to pursue new avenues in your practice, or take time to deepen your knowledge of strategies you have already started applying.

I first saw Michelle Garcia Winner speak over 10 years ago, when this book was published in its first edition. One can think of it as THE core book for Social Thinking, an essential approach in working with high-functioning students with social learning issues. Social Thinking is all about language and concepts that teach students the why of social interactions. The essential ideas and strategies can be taught and then practiced in individual or group sessions, and the vocabulary related to social behavior can then be conveyed to parents and teachers for carryover and reinforcement in situations across the day. Thinking about YOU, Thinking about ME gives you an overview of social cognition and levels of functioning, but also an entry point to some key intervention strategies, such as:

- The Four Steps of Communication: concrete, universally followed steps to approaching others and "hanging out" in a group.
-Developing cognitive vocabulary (what it means to think, know, or guess) through use of videos such as the Wallace and Gromit series (I have also recommended Shaun the Sheep for this).
-Using video both as a feedback technique and as a group project to develop social behaviors in a naturalistic context.
-Social Memory and creating "People Files" about others both as an expected behavior and strategy to aid in initiating interactions.
-Specific language, visuals and goal ideas on teaching physical presence and awareness of how our bodies (and eyes!) should look when "staying with the group."
-A focus on conversational interactions through various strategies- using the "Add-A-Thought" and conversation tree, or Conversation Street Vocabulary describing how conversational behavior can mirror moves on the road.
-Social Behavior Mapping- an essential therapy tool when students have "graduated" from Social Stories™, can be used to teach any situation's associated expected behaviors and consequences.
-Strategies for building the foundations of self advocacy in students, i.e. knowing about their own IEP.

Besides providing information to get you started on all of these intervention strategies, Thinking about YOU, Thinking about ME contains another essential tool: the Social Thinking Dynamic Assessment Protocol. This is a qualitative assessment procedure I have found invaluable in the last several years.  I first started applying it in the school setting along with other colleagues, and the information provided as you work through it with students are essential to an informed assessment of social cognition (this book also provides analyses of norm-referenced assessments) and treatment planning. If you don't yet have the book, you can find some of this information (and many other free resources) on the Social Thinking website here.

That article linked above describes the Double Interview Task within the Protocol; in this task, the clinician interviews the student and makes observations of his or her conversational skills, then turns the table and asks the student to do an interview. This task is very telling! One aspect of the task involves asking the student to view and interpret personal pictures of the clinician. Can the student describe the context and the relationships between the people depicted? Does the student make "smart guesses" about you based on the pictures? Does the student recognize people shown in multiple pictures?

Here's where my tech spin on Thinking about YOU, Thinking about ME comes in. To do the Double Interview Task, you need pictures of yourself. Since many of these are exchanged electronically these days, and also to save the bother of collecting and having more materials around, you can keep your pictures in an album within the Photos app of your iPad.  Here's how you do it:

1. "Collect" your Photos

You may have a built-in collection of usable photos for this task on Facebook. Just save some where you don't have a "beverage."

Navigate to a usable picture in the Facebook app on iPad, and you can tap on the 3 Dots to save the picture to the Photos app.

If you have photos saved elsewhere, or can scan them on a computer, you can then email them to an account accessible in the Mail app on your iPad (to add Mail accounts, open Settings>Mail, Contacts, Calendars). Open the mail and tap and hold on the photo file, then choose Save to Camera Roll.

2. Organize an Album

When doing the assessment, you don't want to have to sweep through all your photos to locate the pictures you plan to show the student. You can facilitate this by creating an Album in the Photos app.

There are several ways to do this but I will show you my favorite way.
a. Open the Photos app and ensure that in the top menu, Photos is selected.
b. Tap Edit. Notice that the menu has disappeared and the words Select Items are displayed.
c. Tap the photos you want to put in your album.
d. Tap Add To...

e. Add to a New Album and Name the Album.
f. You will then see your Album under the Albums section of your Photos app.

If you would like to see this as a video, here is a good representation of the process (after more comprehensive screenshots).

I have found having my photos on the iPad is very convenient as it helps me prepare for these assessments, and it also adds an engagement factor for the student when they are asked to view the photos on the iPad.

I hope you do explore this book when you have some time this summer!

Disclosure: Author was provided a copy of Thinking about YOU, Thinking about ME. However, I owned dog-eared copies of both the first and second editions of this book already! The opinions are all mine.


  1. Thanks for your post. I have used the album feature for several things, such as "function photos", but I haven't been able to then remove those photos from my main photo album. I would like to just have them in their own album and not taking up space among the rest of my photos as well. When I try to delete from the main album, it tells me that the photos will be deleted from all locations. Am I missing a trick or is this the way it is?

    1. HI- yes, this is the way it is. Any photo saved to your iPad is saved in the "Camera Roll" or main Photo Library. When you make albums, the photos also need to stay in this catch-all location.

  2. LOVE the idea of having a photo album ready to go! I just got Thinking About You, Thinking About Me and have really been enjoying it. Thank you for this tip to go with my reading :)