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Speech in the Schools

This Conference Was a Winner!

Published October 12, 2011 8:49 AM by Valerie Lill

I typically don't use my blog to "advertise" a particular therapy approach or a speaker. I am completely in favor of the "eclectic" approach to speech-language therapy. I take bits and pieces from a variety of therapy interventions/approaches/strategies and use what works best with my individual students. However, I'm always open to new ideas, new approaches, and new information. Never say never!

Last week, all the SLPs in my district attended a 2-day conference presented by Michelle Garcia Winner.  One day focused on the I LAUGH Model of Social ThinkingTM, and the other was on Thinking About You Thinking About MeTM with much focus spent on the Social Thinking-Social Communication Profile (ST-SCP)TM.

 If you have not seen her present before and the opportunity comes up, I highly recommend attending.  Michelle is a dynamic speaker--she's full of personality, humor, and countless interesting stories, making it very easy to listen to her speak for two days!  She recognizes her own past mistakes when working with students and has learned from them and adjusted her approach accordingly. Although Michelle has worked in a clinic for many years, she was formerly "one of us"--a school-based SLP.

At my middle school I exclusively work with students in the Autism Support program. These students all have their own unique sets of strengths and challenges. I've been using portions of Michelle's work in my therapy sessions over the last three years (and actually have heard her speak in the past); however, I feel like I walked away from the two days with lots of information, insight, and ideas.

I probably could write about 10 blogs on what I learned and want to use with my students. I'll limit it to the context of this blog and include some links related to the topics.

A random list of take-away ideas, musings, and considerations after attending these two days:

  1. We need to be more honest/more realistic with parents. Attending Autism Support classes and receiving speech-language and occupational therapy for years will make students improve in their individual skills, but the bottom line is, a child who has ASD at age 8 will continue to show social communication challenges at age 28.

    I've seen this with one of my own family members. He showed ASD characteristics as early as age 3, has had therapy for many years, has made progress over the years, but now at age 18, he still is a young adult with ASD. Our goal is to improve a student's skills, but never to eliminate social-communicative deficits.  

    I have written in my notes that when teaching social skills, we are not teaching to mastery (like we do for something such as articulation of specific sounds or for expressive grammar skills). The ST-SCP (see article) provides prognostic information based on a student's level in the profile.
  2. We need to focus more on global social communication issues rather than on specific, individual skills. Michelle has a great, free article about The Social Thinking-Social Learning Tree¬© (see link) which addresses this very issue.  We have to work on "root" and "trunk" skills instead of focusing on the "leaves." This is very insightful and very different from what our students' goals often reflect.
  3. It's ok to use worksheets in therapy! I've used worksheets in social skills groups over the years, and for some reason, I always feel guilty about doing so. I always reflect back on the session and think, "How can I be addressing social skills when we're doing worksheets rather than being social?" Thank you Michelle for eliminating my self-imposed guilt in this area!
  4. Working on social language skills isn't easy! It's ok to admit that it isn't easy! We have the difficult job of taking something that is very abstract (and something we learn without direct instruction) and making it concrete for our students.
  5. Goal-writing for students with ASD is often a bit of a challenge; however, when looking at academic standards, almost all of them can be tied to social language skills in some way.

I could go on and on, but I won't. If you are not familiar with Michelle Garcia Winner's work, please check out her website: There's tons of information, articles, and blog entries.  You can even "friend" Social Thinking on Facebook to access even more information. 

How many of you have heard Winner speak? Have you been incorporating Social Thinking into your work with school-aged students with ASD? Feel free to comment on ADVANCE's blog or Facebook page!



Great information.Thank you.I am a parent of a 6 year old boy with pdd-nos and I have just started exploring Michelle's website. I have ordered most of her books from the local library(they bring it from other libraries as they dont have them) and am planning to attend Michelle's Conference in the future.For my son's age,there are conferences in far off places and I am waiting for it to happen near my place Boston.His therapists at school are good but do not know anything about Michelle and her works.I am planing to request them to attend the conference and to read her works.Social skills need to be taught for the kids on the spectrum and i am glad Michelle is doing such a great job.

Lily Thomas December 15, 2011 8:54 AM

I'm guessing you are a non-SLP reader.  Speech-Language Pathologist.

Valerie Lill October 15, 2011 7:41 PM

What's an SLP?

Michael Wilcox October 15, 2011 4:18 PM
Alford MA

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About this Blog

    Speech in the Schools
    Occupation: School-based speech-language pathologists
    Setting: Traditional and specialized K-12 classrooms
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