New SCORES Blog & Social Thinking Group Updates


After battling with the interface for the former SCORES blog and having it eat several of my posts this semester, I’ve made the switch over to WordPress. This is the primary way that I keep parents up-to-date with helpful tools, information, and updates about the topics and skills we are learning in the Social Thinking groups.

If you’d bookmarked the old site, please update to this one. Also, please make sure to click “follow by email” on the sidebar, so that you will automatically be notified when new posts are added. I am in the process of  moving all the tools and resources from the old site to this one and then will shut that site down. I will hopefully have all the resources and tools moved over by the end of the holiday break. I will send out an update when everything is complete.

3d_red_question_mark_button_image_165506Wondering about what exactly is Executive Functioning? Wondering how to help your child  develop homework skills, organizational skills, and better time management? You’re not alone. These questions come up often in my conversations with parents. If it would be helpful to you, I am considering setting up a parent meeting one night early next semester to provide information, strategies, and answer questions regarding strategies you can employ at home to help your child develop his or her executive functioning skills. If this is something that would be helpful to you, please email me and let me know. If we have enough interest, I will make arrangements to open the building one evening and we can discuss ways to make homework less painful and more pleasant at your house. If we don’t have enough interest to set up an evening meeting, I will still be happy to share information one-on-one.


Now..onto the fun stuff! Your kids have worked tremendously hard learning new social thinking skills and applying them to their classrooms. Hopefully, you’ve seen some application at home as well. If you’re unsure which group your child belongs to, email me and I’ll let you know!

Here’s what we’ve been up to:

1st grade Language/Social Thinking group:  We are increasing our ability to effectively use a visual schedule, think about the “group plan”, be able to determine basic emotions through picture clues, practice Whole Body Listening, answer who/what/where/when questions on topic, use visual supports to identify applicable clues that help us answer basic “why” questions (see the WHY tool below), being able to demonstrate accurate non-verbal representation of actions, and engage in pretend play with objects used in ways that are non-traditional to increase cognitive flexibility.


Do “why” questions trip up your child? Do you find yourself thinking “huh?!” with the answers that result? This visual is a helpful tool that you can print and use at home to help support this skill. It helps children attend to the important information in a situation instead of becoming distracted by irrelevant details. When considering “why” something is happening or “why” someone feels the way they do, we need to pay attention to WHO is present, what they are DOING, what OBJECTS are involved, and WHERE  they are. It is important to teach your child to consider context. Actions that are acceptable at home are not necessarily acceptable in other places. A perfect example is a child who has mastered the art of raising his hand to speak at school and then tries to apply that “rule” in all social situations resulting in “weird thoughts” if he raises his hand at a restaurant or playdate. Using this visual does take more time, but by doing so you are helping your child learn to make those cognitive connections that will help him in all academic and social areas. Feel free to click on the image above and download the pdf to use at home.

1st grade Social Thinking group: We had new members join our group this semester, so we’ve spent time building community, learning & reviewing our use of the group plan, thinking with our eyes, body in the group, whole body listening, and engaging in basic social problem solving. The boys have done a marvelous job applying their skills in their classrooms.

This visual is especially helpful when working on developing social problem solving skills. Feel free to click on the image below and download for your use at home. It is helpful to show that there are multiple solutions to a problem and that the cost or benefit of each outcome must be considered when choosing which option is best.problemmap_KH2nd/3rd grade Social Detectives: We have added a new group member and have spent time teambuilding as well as identifying expected and unexpected behaviors that keep our fellow group members feeling calm vs upset.

We have spent time working on increasing our conversational flexibility, taking conversational turns, participating in conversation even when the topic is not of our choice or our particular interest.

We have spent time identifying calming strategies to use when upset and chose the particular strategies that work best for us to keep in our brain “toolbox”. Some of the strategies the kids have identified include:

deep breathing

Balloon breathing visual


infinity breathing (2)


using a stress ball or glitter bottle

glitter stressball

going to a “calm, dark, still” place


using calming self-talk

self talk

asking for help



and our favorite, thinking of our happy place.


We also spent time identifying situations that commonly make us feel stressed and how stress feels in our bodies (tight  muscles, headache, upset stomach, hot, cold, etc.). We then role played situations and used our newly discovered coping skills to practice calming.

We moved onto basic problem solving using the chart above. We discussed the cost/benefit of various choices and practiced in both role play, video-based instruction, and through games.

We’ve progressed into working on basic perspective taking and social inferencing. This is challenging and will definitely be a big focus for the spring semester!

4th grade Social Thinking Experts: The boys have welcomed a new member to the group and have worked on teambuilding and identifying expected & unexpected behaviors that keep the group moving forward or interrupt the group.

We’ve continued to develop our conversation skills including how to tell when others are interested or not interested, how to moderate talk time to keep others interested, and how to take turns in a conversation. The anchor that we use with conversational turn taking is that in a conversation we “toss a ball” between conversation partners. The “ball” does not go in a specific pattern, but it is important to (a) make sure to share the ball with others (no one likes a ball hog!) and (b) to catch the ball, not grab it. We modeled what it feels like at recess when someone grabs a ball away from you in a game (angry/frustrated) and made the connection to that same feeling when you “grab” the conversation away by interrupting or talking on top of others. 


We’ve also worked on developing an understanding of idioms through fiction and everyday conversation.

We’ve targeted coping skills for stress and have worked to self-identify our stress levels and use strategies to calm our systems.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve begun working through a basic understanding of executive functioning, the brain structures that govern executive functioning, common distractors, and time management.

The boys started by learning that three parts of our brain structure guide the decision making process. The amygdala, the hippocampus, and the prefrontal cortex.


Officer Amygdala is the first line of defense.


He decides immediately whether a situation is a threat that needs to be responded to through fight, flight, or freeze. If so, he responds accordingly. If not, he sends the information along to the pre-frontal cortex.


The prefrontal cortex is our wise decision maker. Like Yoda, it takes information from the amygdala and the memories of past experiences from the hippocampus and uses this information to make a decision about how to handle the situation.


The hippocampus is our memory keeper. By accessing the memory of past experience or making connections between related events, the prefrontal cortex is able to make wise decisions and keep our responses calm and rational.

The boys then took this information and role played various scenarios determining whether the amygdala should react with fight/flight/freeze or should send it on to Yoda the PFC to problem solve.


We then started discussing the idea of time management. The boys self-identified various parts of their day at home and school and determined how effectively they use their time. We identified the positive results from effective time management and the costs of ineffective time management. Then they began working on evaluating how effectively they are able to estimate how long a task will take. We did interactive centers that involved time estimation. Each of the boys brought home a time estimation challenge to complete at home this week. If you haven’t heard about it yet, ask them about it. It is due at group on Thursday this week!


Finally, we revisited Superflex and the powers of the Unthinkable, Braineater (which we renamed Brainstealer since the boys decided that Braineater is entirely too zombie-ish!). The boys identified common distractors during their day, their current strategies to stay focused, and how effective (or ineffective) those strategies currently are.

As you can see, we’ve been busy! All the groups will continue to build on their knowledge in 2015 and will become even more amazing Social Thinkers!

Thank you for sharing your amazing, brilliant, oh-so-funny children with me. I wish you all a peaceful holiday and a fantastic 2015!





Considerations When Teaching Social Thinking

An article was published recently by Michelle Garcia Winner, MA, CCC-SLP and Pamela Crooke, PhD, CCC-SLP of Social Thinking Center in a recent addition of Attention Magazine by CHADD that examined the Cascade of Social Thinking. This is a great way to explain how I assess and plan for individual student Social Thinking instruction. I’d like to share a few excerpts from the article to better share the thought process that goes into analyzing each student’s social functioning and making critical decisions about this instruction.

When analyzing student social functioning, I look for many elements in both static and dynamic situations. Students must be able to accurately demonstrate various thought processes and actions in structured, static situations before being asked to generalize to more dynamic, changing situations. Often, this is why there is a difference between the experience that a parent may have with a particular social skill at home compared to what we see at school. At school, we practice the skill with the appropriate amount of scaffolding that the student requires at that time. Imagine this support as a highly involved scaffold at a construction site and over time the scaffolding is decreased. When a student requires a high level of prompting or cueing and a more structured/static situation to practice, the scaffolding level is high. Over time, we will move the skill to less prompting/cueing while keeping the practice opportunities structured and static. When the student can handle that level, we pull back the prompting or cueing and/or expand the people and environments in which they practice the skill. Eventually (hopefully!) the student can generalize the skill to many people and environments with minimal to no cueing.

As you can imagine, based upon the social complexity of the skill, this can take a good long while to achieve. The other issue is buy-in. The student needs to see the benefit to themselves of engaging in the hard work of practicing this new skill. Just like working out, developing social thinking skills takes a lot of stamina!

Take a look below at the Cascade of Social Thinking. This clearly explains the various levels that students travel as they develop their Social Thinking skills.
excerpted from Social Learning and Social Functioning by Michelle Garcia Winner, MA, CCC-SLP and Pamela Crooke, PhD, CCC-SLP. Published in Attention Magazine by CHADD, October 2013

Things are never quite as simple as they seem and this is most certainly the case with social learning. As

children, most of us followed a similar developmental journey when acquiring social skills but rarely do we
now give thought to which skills allow us to function across different people and places each day. In fact, it is
likely that we have no idea when we acquired the ability to take multiple perspectives, initiate
communication at the right time and place, enter in and out of groups, play cooperatively or collaboratively
exist with one another – it just happened.We certainly didn’t place a milestone on when we began to
understand context-specific concepts and the relationship to how people think, act and behave in that
situation. And yet, development marched on and we emerged with these concepts and skills. Our innate
ability to engage our social awareness and attention to self and others paved the way.
Now imagine the effects on social learning when an individual’s innate driver of his or her own social
attention and awareness is delayed or driven by a brain seeking the details that may or may not be a critical
part of the social situation. The result is a Pandora’s box filled with social challenges that foster more
struggles and social issues and so on. So, the question becomes, Can we address the individual needs of
different types of social learners in one size fits all social skills program?

We’ve developed a framework that has 6 critical synergistic concepts related to social abilities. We refer to this as the Cascade of Social Functioning. Each element in the cascade is based on current research and the 
relationships between the concepts are drawn from our clinical experience. Consider how information in
one part of the cascade impacts how a student functions in another part of the cascade and each
subsequent concept. In other words, each concept flows into one another highlighting the social executive
functioning involved in social interactions.

Awareness to the situation: Ultimately, we are expected to adapt our social behavior to the situation, but
we must first be able to take note or be aware of the situation or context.
  ~Attention to social expectations within the situation requires one to consider the different
  perspectives of others sharing space within the situation in order to figure out the related
  expectations. The expectations are often unstated social rules, which are also referred to as the
  “hidden rules” or “hidden curriculum”.
        ~Social self-awareness to figure out how one is perceived as meeting or failing to meet the
        hidden rules. This requires us to consider other’s perspectives in order to determine if we need
        to further adapt our behavior to do what is expected in the situation. A student who struggles
        to attend to the first 2 steps in the cascade is usually observed as being “aloof” and lacks the
        social self-awareness to self-monitor their behaviors.

               ~Literal vs. abstract interpretation of communication within the situation: A weaker ability
               to understand another’s perspectives for social attention and self-monitoring results in
               difficulty trying to interpret what others mean by what they say. For this reason, those who
              have limited social self-awareness tend to interpret verbal and non-verbal language in a
              more literal manner. Those who have more awareness of how their ideas and behaviors
              may be interpreted in multiple ways by others are most likely to have the ability to
              understand and express their ideas with abstract language.

                  ~Concept verses detailed interpretation within the situation: Those with a more literal
                           manner of interpretation are more likely to see the concrete details of the situation
                           rather than the concept. It can logically be argued that when a person is so detailedfocused
                           that she cannot take note of the situation or how people are governed by the
                           situation, she would consequently struggle to gain a “main idea” or concept. Our highly
                           literal thinkers tend to also be very detail focused in how they see and interpret the
                           world. Those with stronger conceptual awareness tend to have stronger perspective
                           taking skills and be more successful at interpreting and responding to information as long
                           as they can organize their response in a timely manner using their executive functioning

                                 ~General verses social anxiety. Those who lack social self-awareness are typically very
                                   literal and detail oriented leading them to experience anxiety dealing with transition
                                   and change. This world-based anxiety appears in our students who envision their world
                                   as maintaining sameness and cannot anticipate change (nor learn from past
                                   experiences as how to cope with change) due to inflexibility in how they interpret and
                                   respond to information. On the other hand, those with a great social attention, 

                                   self-awareness and interpretation are more likely to develop social anxiety in adolescent

                                          years as they understand more clearly how they are perceived by others -even if unsure
                                  as to what part of the social skills creates that perception.

Differentiating instruction based on social learning abilities rather than a diagnostic label: 
As we study each of our students’ social behavior based on the 6 areas addressed in the cascade, our
understanding of his/her level of the social mind should become more clear and a pathway to developing a
treatment trajectory more relevant. At this point we begin to differentiate what types of lessons will benefit
the individual. For example, a student with weak perspective taking, poor self-awareness, highly literal,
detail focused with world based anxiety will need a treatment program that builds upon very basic Social
Thinking concepts along with other resources. We would start teaching from a perspective of what the
student currently understands about the social world…

However, for an individual with solid awareness of other’s perspectives, a good understanding of what the
expected behavior is in a particular situation (even with difficulty self-monitoring in the moment), the ability
to abstract information, and characteristics similar to neurotypical peers, a more nuanced Social Thinking
approach is critical. In stark contrast to the treatment approach for the literal learner describe previously,
this nuanced learner would require a deeper level of discussion about social expectations, how to consider
and manage different perspectives/emotions, and how to translate that knowledge into social behavioral
responses (social skills).

Other core Social Thinking treatment strategies provide information to help students improve the ability to
share space with others (e.g., working side by side others in a classroom), develop relationships with
different types of people (peers, teachers, coaches) for different types of reasons (friendship, team
collaboration, cooperation, hidden rules, etc.) However, it is important to note that most social concepts
across a school day expand beyond interpersonal relationships into interpreting and responding to the
academic classroom curriculum. With the Common Core or State Standards, all students – no matter the
age- are expected to participate in lessons that encourage them to consider another’s points of view in
written material, movies/videos, and classmates. Students are also expected to efficiently sort out the
difference between a concept and related details in order to participate in social conversations, classroom
discussions or expressing one’s ideas through written expression. The analysis of information that relates to
understanding others perspectives requires Social Thinking; the expression of those thoughts requires not
only Social Thinking but also social skills.

Copyright 2014 Think Social Publishing, Inc

The article in its entirety can be viewed by visiting this link What is Social Thinking article

Dealing with Holiday Stress & Transitions

This time of year is exciting while we wait for Santa and his reindeer and all the rest of the holiday fun. Unfortunately, along with all the fun can come anxiety!

Anxiety in your child can look like worrying and crying, but it can also look like an increase in rigid thinking, noncompliance, sleep disturbance, and altered appetite.

Here are a few techniques to help with holiday transitions and help keep this a joyful time for all:

  • One of the most effective techniques for dealing with transitions during the holidays is using a visual calendar to indicate the differences between days. You can click here to download and print a simple calendar for the holiday break. 

My encouragement to you is even if you think your child is going to be fine, sit down with him and mark the days that things will be “different”. This can include relatives coming over, playdates, travel dates, days at mom’s house or dad’s house, Trail of Lights visit, and when we return to school, etc. Hang it on your fridge or in your child’s bedroom and refer to it often. If the plan changes, make a quick note on the calendar. Allowing your child to see what is coming next automatically decreases their underlying anxiety.

    Some children need a more detailed plan for the day. It is not always necessary to have a formal visual schedule. Often, a quickly jotted list on a post-it note is sufficient. You can make the “plan” for the day with your child the night before at bedtime or at breakfast. It might look something like this…

    If your child is a time-conscious kid, just add ballpark times, but emphasize that they can change. If
    they do change, make the change in WRITING!

    Carefully choose the amount of information you want to share with your child about upcoming events. Children on the Autism spectrum function better with factual information about what to expect, but don’t give too much information too soon. That can actually backfire and create the anxiety you were trying to avoid in the first place! It is okay to “drip-feed” information as it is needed.

      Preview the “expected” behavior before social events or new experiences. You can discuss what they can expect to see, hear, and do and what others expect to see them do. Discuss any “hidden rules” of different environments. Hidden rules are those things that no one explicitly spells out for us, but we are supposed to just “know”. A few holiday examples might be: if you get a gift that you don’t like or already have, you smile, say thanks, and take it anyway or if you are served food that is not your favorite, you either take a little on your plate or politely say “no thank you” and choose something else – you do not announce to the group that it is disgusting!

      Hidden rules are a giant minefield for our kiddos. The more you can think through the hidden rules of a situation and clue your child in before the event (or even during if necessary) the more competent they will feel, the calmer you will feel, and the more fun everyone will have.

      Finally, remind your child that if the noise, crowds, excitement, and new experiences start to feel not fun, it is okay to say “I need a break”.

        Always respect your child’s need to take a short break away from all the “fun” stuff. Talk about ways your child can take a break in “expected” ways (go in the bathroom for a few minutes, ask to take a walk with a family member, take headphones to block out noise if your child is especially sensitive to sound). If your child does start to have a meltdown, make sure to reassure him that it is okay and that he can use his calming plan next time.

        Remember, the focus is on growing skills to be more flexible in different circumstances, improving perspective taking skills by recognizing the thoughts and feelings in others, and celebrating the use of coping strategies to stay calm and get needs met appropriately! Improvement in those areas is the best present of all!
        I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Thank you for sharing your children with me every day. I am the luckiest teacher at Baldwin! With love, Mrs. Hively

        Social Thinking Group Updates

        We’ve been super busy working in our Social Thinking groups. I’m proud of all the hard work that the kids have been putting into learning new skills. Here are some of the things we’ve been working on and resources you can use at home…

        Kinder group #1: We’ve been working on developing language skills for positional words including “on, under, and above”. We’ve also worked on expanding our recognition of basic feelings facial expressions.

        Kinder/1st grade: We’ve continued working on expanding the accurate recognition of facial expressions. We’ve also worked on learning how to use a 5 point scale to identify our anxiety level, triggers that typically put us in the “danger zone” (4 or 5), and strategies to use to bring our anxiety back down to a manageable level (1 or 2). The 5 point scale is adopted from Kari Dunn Burton’s work The Incredible 5 Point Scale.

        The calming sequence is adopted from her book When My Worries Get Too Big.  The instructions for the calming sequence are to: close your eyes, breathe in and out slowly, and rub your thighs. We also add the instruction to “think of your happy place”. The kids all came up with a location or image they could think of that made them feel calm and good. Ask your child where his “happy place” is. It is a great idea to practice using the calming sequence during calm periods so that it is easier to access during stressful moments.

        2nd grade: We’ve spent a great deal of time delving into Superflex (created by Michelle Garcia Winner) and the strategies to defeat the Unthinkables. Superflex is a superhero who uses flexible thinking to solve social problems.

        The two main Unthinkables that we have covered are Rockbrain (the boss of the Unthinkables) who makes us get stuck on our own ideas and not be flexible with alternative ways of doing things and Glassman who makes us have big reactions to small problems. The boys have identified common situations that cause them to have difficulty with Rockbrain and Glassman and strategies to defeat them. Please feel free to use any of these resources at home to help your child (or have your child help you!) defeat the Unthinkables.

        The main calming tool that we are using to defeat Glassman and start to problem solve is progressive relaxation. Here is a visual that you can use to guide at home. The “shortcut” way is just to tighten fists and release with a deep breath.

        We also use the following guidelines to help us determine what size the problem really is. Sometimes problems can feel really big, but when we check it out we find that they are more manageable than we originally thought.

        5th grade: We have been working on continuing our discussion about conversation skills and have explored how to identify sarcasm. As you can imagine as we prepare for middle school, recognizing sarcasm is an important skill to know! We discussed the common characteristics of sarcasm which include variations in tone, saying the opposite of what is meant, and appropriate audiences for sarcasm – usually not your teachers or parents! 😉  We watched video examples of sarcasm and identified what the real meaning is in the verbal exchange.

        We are eager to expand all these skills in the new year!

        I want to wish all of you a relaxing, peaceful and joyous holiday. I hope you all get a chance to relax and enjoy quiet time with your precious kiddos! See you in 2013!

        Social Thinking Group Topics ~ April 2012

        I will periodically be posting updates to keep you informed about the topics that your child is learning in Social Thinking group. I suggest  that you subscribe to this blog or follow by email so that you will be aware when new material is posted.

        The kids have been working to create “team” names for each individual social group. You should have received an email letting you know what “team” your child is on for reference purposes. If you are unsure, ask your child or shoot me an email. At this point, the only group who does not yet have a name is the 1st/2nd graders. We will be working on a team name soon.

        The Cardinalsaurs is a group made up of Kindergarten and 1st grade students. The team name was created by combining two ideas from group members (Cardinals and Dinosaurs!). The great thing is that the kids figured out how to compromise with no guidance from me! I love it! One of the group members has contributed this fantastic drawing of what a Cardinalsaur looks like. 

        The Cardinalsaurs have been working on improving joint attention through building projects. Joint attention is the shared focus of two people on an object or other person. Joint attention is a critical skill for social competence. It is necessary in order to reference the people and context of a situation. Social referencing is crucial in order to monitor the actions and feelings of those around us and to help adjust our own actions in response. We’ve worked on building our joint attention through play without verbal communication. One of the favorite activities is to choose an object that we want to build and each member of the team adds a designated number of pieces to the creation. You direct your partner’s actions through your eye gaze by looking directly at the piece you wish for them to pick up and then directing their movement through your eye gaze.

        To practice this at home:

         1. Use Legos, K’Nex or any kind of building toy with varied pieces.

         2. Allow your child to initially decide on an object that you will build as a team. One important rule is that no one can speak, they can only communicate through eye gaze. This emphasizes the rule of thumb “what I’m looking at is what I’m thinking about”. The other rule is that you cannot move or remove any piece that another player adds to the creation. This rule allows for practice of flexible thinking when someone’s idea varies from your own. Decide a number of pieces that can be added on each turn (1-3 is recommended).

        3. After the first creation is complete, then the next person gets to pick an object. Emphasize that the pictures we create in our minds of the same object may vary. For example, if we are going to build a boat,  you may picture a speedboat, while I might picture a cruise ship. Neither is wrong and we have to be flexible as we build to accept the ideas of others.

        This week the Cardinalsaurs are learning the basics of being Social Detectives. A Social Detective uses his eyes, ears, and brain to figure out what others are likely thinking and feeing and make social predictions. If you would like to read The Social Detective by Michelle Garcia Winner feel free to visit the Baldwin SCORES Wiki at  The book is available for online viewing under the “Superflex” tab on the right sidebar.  If you do not yet have a login for the wiki, please email me and I will send you the login info.

        The Social Detective concepts are important because they lay the foundation for learning basic Social Thinking skills. From this point on, we will begin to use the terms “Expected” and “Unexpected” to describe social behaviors. This takes away the connotation of “good” or “bad”, but instead examines behavior from the perspective of whether it is expected in a given situation or not.  For example, crying when you have to transition activities is unexpected while crying because you fall down and scrape your knee is expected. The behavior of crying is not good or bad. Expected behavior creates calm feelings in others and yourself while unexpected behavior creates uncomfortable or upset feelings in others and yourself.

        The other terms that we will begin using are “smart guesses” or “wacky guesses”. Using the Social Detective tools (eyes, ears, brain) allow us to make “smart guesses” about what others are thinking or feeling and predict what may happen next. When we do not use these tools our guesses tend to be wacky and off-base.

        The soon-to-be-named group is made up of 1st and 2nd grade students and the Thinkables are a group of 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students. Both groups are currently working on expanding their knowledge of the Superflex strategies and techniques to defeat Braineater. Braineater is one of the Unthinkables that is a troublemaker for all of us at one time or another. Braineater causes us to be distracted and make our brain leave the group.

        Watch the Superflex page on the right sidebar for various visual tools that I am in the process of uploading. So far the kids have learned about defeating Rockbrain and Glassman. You can also check the SCORES wiki for access to the Superflex books to read from home. If you do not have a username or password, email me and I will make sure you have access to the wiki. The wiki address is: 

        The 5th Grade Transition group is focusing on preparing for the transition to middle school. This is an exciting and anxious time for students who are moving into this new setting. We are preparing through video clips and discussion about questions and concerns that they have. I have created a series of 20 short video clips of current 8th grade students providing information on topics that they wish someone had told them before they entered 6th grade. Here are the first two clips:
        #1 – Reputation Begins on Day 1
        #2 – What if I Don’t Get a Class I Want?
        More clips will be uploaded as we work on them as a group in class. It would be a good idea to have these clips available from home in the summer before the school year begins in August.