Learning and Sharing

Reading Comprehension and Social Thinking

There is a connection between reading comprehension and social thinking.  Children who struggle with reading comprehension usually have difficulty using social judgment on the playground and when working in cooperative groups.  Children who have social learning challenges usually struggle to make inferences and draw conclusions as they read.  Both social thinking and reading comprehension require a high level of perspective taking.  When we are around other people, we need to think about their thoughts, motives, and intentions.  When we read, we have to get into the characters heads and imagine what they are thinking and what they might do next.

In social settings, children must read the facial expressions and body language of others in order to make a smart guess about which groups to attempt to enter and which ones to avoid.  They need to be able to anticipate how problems can occur in order to take steps to solve them.  They must be able to compromise, negotiate, and be flexible thinkers in order to make and keep friends.  To comprehend what they read, children must imagine what their characters are thinking.  They must use the words to create a picture or use the picture provided to imagine what the characters are thinking.

I use a variety of strategies with my clients who struggle with reading.  I have found great success when I help them make the invisible visible.  I Get It! by Audra Jensen gave me a kick-start on how to apply the Social Thinking® vocabulary and concepts to reading comprehension.


I’m a Frog! by Mo Willems is an example of a book that I would use when working on the concept of a shared imagination.



In this book, Piggie understands what it means to pretend and wants to help Gerald share in his pretending.  Gerald just doesn’t get it!

I hide the text and ask my clients to make smart guesses about what the characters are thinking.  I ask them to think with their eyes by pointing out facial expressions and body language.





Then we look at the text to see if our guesses were correct or close.


Wambat Walkabout by Carol Diggory Shields and illustrated by Sophie Blackall is the perfect text when working on the concept of keeping your body in the group.



For an extensive list of books to support reading comprehension and Social Thinking® concepts, visit


We, educators and therapists, must be careful that we do not assume that reading comprehension is not a concern if students have high cognitive skills, a robust vocabulary, can decode, and are able to answer general WH questions about what they read.  We need to help them dig deeper and help them to put themselves into a story and understand perspectives and how different people and situations affect each other and their environment.

My Best,




Perspective Taking and Making the Invisible Visible



MOTIVE and INTENT are important concepts for tweens and teens to understand in order to navigate their social world. Young people with social challenges often need explicit teaching to better understand this concept.  We think with our eyes to figure out others thoughts, intentions, emotions, plans, and motives.

I love these perspective taking activities from

The name of the activity is Perspective Taking Photo Activity Cards  What Are They Thinking?

We can write on the picture scenarios and draw whatever we need to to make the invisible visible.


“In working with our clients, we use the thought bubbles to help individuals learn about thoughts; the thoughts we have about ourselves and the thoughts we may have based on what we think about others. This tool can build more self-awareness into the cognitive process. It can then support carrying the lesson one step further: how we adapt our social skills based on our thoughts as well as the thoughts others have about us or the situation.”   Michelle Garcia Winner  

Read the complete article at



More perspective taking activities that we like to make interactive with sticky thought and speech bubbles.

Thoughts can change.  Different people have different thoughts and feelings about the same thing.  The sticky bubbles work well for making the invisible visible.

When watching delightful, wordless animated short films like Pixar’s Piper, thought bubbles give us a way of expressing our thoughts about the thoughts, intentions, and motives of others.


Happy Summer!



Tone of Voice







93% of communication is nonverbal and 38% is based on tone of voice.  Addressing these elements of communication are targets for my clients in middle and high school who experience ASD and social learning challenges.  It is important for young people to learn to “think with their eyes” in order to read the non verbal cues of others and just as importantly, to monitor their own nonverbal communication.

The evidence based technique of video modeling to target social skills for tweens and teens is highly effective.  I have been using  Everyday Speech Social Skills Videos during coaching sessions.

The videos contrast behaviors and show clients what everyone is thinking.  The Tone of Voice videos present teens using a harsh tone as well as an indifferent tone.

I use this discussion guide and game, a product by, as a framework for working on tone of voice.  Questions are provided to help you get the discussion going about tone of voice and the important role it plays in communication. After my clients discuss and define tone of voice, they get to practice altering their own voices to change meaning. Sentences are included as well as additional blank cards for them to add their own sentences to the game.


“Tone can be a deal breaker in the business world, in relationships, interviews, and social standing.”


Remember – tone of voice matters




Leave a comment »

Our “Inner Jerks”



Recently, I have had a few middle school age clients who needed some coaching in how to deal with their “inner jerk” and the “inner jerk” in others.  These young people are discovering that acting like a jerk is one thing, being mean and cruel is another.  Knowing the difference and knowing how to solve problems proactively matters.

We all have to share space.  Sometimes we have to share space with people who just rub us the wrong way and bring out the worst in us.  These people can, and often do, wake up our “inner jerk”.  It is our job to try and control our “inner jerk” so that we don’t wake up the jerk in others.

Identifying what it means to be difficult is a good first step.  All of us, at one time or another, have been a difficult person to someone else.  The next step is to make a plan of action on how to deal or handle the “jerks” that we encounter in our everyday life.  Using positive self-talk or your inner coach is a great strategy for reminding ourselves that we can walk away before our emotions take over and we “flip our lids”.

There will always be jerks in our life.  You can’t control anyone else’s behavior but you can work hard to try and control your own “inner jerk” and put a stop to that behavior. Learning about how the brain works helps us self-regulate.



This is a very informative video showing a hand model of the brain.  It is long, but 12 minutes in, he demonstrates to a 13 year old how the brain works and what happens when we “flip our lids”.

Middle school is a tough place.  It is full of jerks, drama, and strong feelings.  Conflicts happen.  Being prepared with a knowledge of how the brain works and a plan of action for dealing with conflict can help keep us flexible and out of trouble.

For more information on the inner jerk, go to

Find more great ideas in Thinksheets for Tweens and Teens and Socially Curious and Curiously Social.  Both are Social Thinking® publications by Michele Garcia Winner and Pamela Crooke.



Leave a comment »

This Is How We Do It!


Saturday is my busiest day now and I change my hat every hour, from 9:30am to 4:00. Kids are available on Saturday and I see 6 clients who present with very different needs.



Listening to an attention and regulation program while climbing and walking prepares this client to engage with his social group.


My client loves the concept of Digging Deeper.  He is not a “Big Picture” thinker, so the close reading process helps him to think beyond a list of details.

Read more about close reading at The Literacy Nest blog.

  •       Carefully look at the meaning of the text in a series of rereads.
  •       Give attention to ideas, supporting details, and central themes.
  •       Reflect on meanings of sentences and words. (the language of text)
  •       Not only reflect on their own thinking (metacognition), but reflect on other’s thinking. (the author!)

More on close reading:

  • Close reading isn’t about any one technique, but rather arriving at a goal as the reader.(Shanahan, 2013)
  • Close reading can be flexible. Three or four reads of the text every time may not be necessary, and not every text is meant to be closely read. One recommendation is for teachers to choose one challenging text to close read for every teaching unit.
  • Questioning is key. Teachers need to be VERY familiar with the text and take time to develop questions for each repeated read that will get students traveling to a new place with their thinking. These questions should also help the reader arrive at a deeper comprehension of the text.



My young clients who struggle with self-regulation get a kick out of Hunter and they recognize themselves in him as he works hard to stop before responding or reacting impulsively.  The remote serves as a concrete and familiar cue for organizing and integrating the concepts and skills for self-regulation.




Characters, Matt, Molly and their friends, show us the expected and unexpected behaviors for a variety of social settings.  Their exaggerated facial expressions and body language help my clients to better understand what they might be thinking and feeling in those social scenarios.  Processing verbal information through reading and matching sentences and pictures provides reading practice, too.


Dr. Erica Warren at Good Sensory Learning, has created workbooks for helping to strengthen visual discrimination,  reverse image reversals, and improve pattern recognition and tracking.  The exercises and strategies included in these products are a welcome addition to my multi-sensory reading sessions.

Have a great week!

My Best,


Leave a comment »

Building Social Competencies


The We Thinkers! group at the JCC Preschool had their final session of the school year yesterday. As we reflected on our time together we talked about how our thinking had changed. The children expressed their thoughts on “a group plan” and a “shared imagination”. I was excited to hear them talk in terms of concepts, such as “expected vs unexpected” and “flexible thinking”. We are proud that this group is heading to kindergarten with new social competencies.

For more information about the We Thinkers! curriculum go to:

Leave a comment »

Junior Mindreaders


Last week at the JCC preschool, we focused on applying all of the social thinking concepts that we have been working on since October.

Oliver & Hope’s Amusing Adventure by Meg Cadts is an inspiration to all of us.  The message of the book is to think about what you do have and not what you don’t have.  There are many opportunities for Oliver and Hope to give up or have a meltdown.  Luckily, they are flexible thinkers who are able to identify the size of a problem and match the size of their reaction.



My preschool friends do love to hear a book read to them.  If the story/book has been adapted to the small screen, they love it even more.  In her book, Movie Time Social Learning, Anna Vagin teaches us how to use strategies in the framework of movie/video watching to foster a client’s ability to think socially:  interpret emotional cues; read context; interpret thoughts, feelings, and plans;  and make “smart guesses” about social behavior.  Follow her at and on twitter @anna_vagin.


Watching No Roses For Harry gave the Junior Mindreaders opportunities to think with their eyes so that they could decode the thoughts and plans of others.  One of the Junior Mindreaders explained how important it is to think of others before giving them a gift.  She said that, “you need to think about what they like and not what you like”.  Indeed!!



Leave a comment »

Sentence Building


I cut my speech therapist teeth on The Fokes Sentence Builder in 1977.  Wish I could get my hands on one now!  Since I cannot, I was lucky to find “a close enough” product by called Monster Sentences: Interactive Sentence Building and available on



Love this product!



My clients like the Sentence Builder, Sentence Builder Teen and Clicker Sentences apps.

After practicing with one of these apps, I get out a colorful pacing board and work toward generalization.




Leave a comment »

Sharing an Imagination


Wonderful morning at the JCC preschool!  The targeted Social Thinking® concept for today was Sharing An Imagination.  A shared imagination is the ability to imagine what another person is thinking, feeling, and/or pretending.  Through Shared Collaborative Imaginative Play children learn an essential skill set to enable them to work and learn in groups, develop social relationships, and engage in socially-based critical thinking or social problem solving.



When is a spatula not a spatula?  When is a cardboard tube not a cardboard tube?  Francis and I stepped through The Hoop of Change and pretended to be a reporter and her cameraman.  We pretended that the spatula was a microphone and the cardboard tube was a video camera as we interviewed the children and asked about their spring break adventures.  Others stepped through The Hoop of Change and pretended to be cheetahs, lions and tigers hunting on the savanna.  Once they stepped back through The Hoop, they were children again!

Often, children with social learning challenges have difficulty joining and staying involved in this type of play and conversation.  Some children find it difficult to imagine someone else’s experience or point of view if it’s not their own.  Shared imagination helps us to imagine what characters are thinking and what might be their intentions; it is at the heart of reading comprehension, narrative language, and written expression.

Working through We Thinkers! Series Vol. 2 Social Problem Solvers Curriculum ( has been a blast for all of us!

Not a Box, by Antoinette Portis, is a beloved book with this group; it inspires conversation about sharing an imagination.







Leave a comment »

Choosing reinforcers


I always try to associate myself with good things.  Finding a perfect reinforcer that matches a clients interest is so sweet!



The stacking robots are awesome.  Articulation drills can be tough but when you know these robots are waiting for you at the end, the hard work seems easier to get through.


My clients who work on executive function skills seem to love games of logic.  Lazer Maze is a magic reinforcer.


The right reinforcer means everything!

Leave a comment »