Michelle Garcia Winner’s Social Thinking is designed for those who struggle with social issues. It can work for those with ADHD, Autism, Social Communication Disorder and Nonverbal Learning Disability. It can also be helpful for those kids who don’t have a diagnosis, but are having a hard time fitting in.
It’s really a series of concepts you can use to work on your interactions with others - flexible thinking, expected vs. unexpected, social behavior mapping, etc. Here is a definition straight from the Social Thinking website.
“Social thinking is what we do when we interact with people: we think about them. And how we think about people affects how we behave, which in turn affects how others respond to us, which in turn affects our own emotions.” (Here is the rest of the article if you want to read more)
I like the social thinking concepts because it teaches kids to think in a social way, not just do the socially expected thing. It’s almost like cognitive behavioral therapy for social interactions.
One of the ideas from Social Thinking that I first heard about was the concept of Unthinkables. In order to make Social Thinking accessible for Elementary School age kids, Michelle Garcia Winner and her colleagues created a character named Superflex.
Superflex is a Superhero who is able to manage all sorts of different social situations in an expected way. He helps defeat The Unthinkables when they try to take over kids brains and make them behave in unexpected ways.
Your next question may be - what on earth is an Unthinkable? The Unthinkables are little cartoon characters that externalize particular problems kids may have. For example, Rock Brain is a character who makes kids get stuck on their own ideas.
What's neat about the Unthinkables is that it takes the focus off of the child, and instead you can talk about the behavior as a separate entity. “Rock Brain is making you get stuck, how can you defeat him? What strategy can you use?” I’ve worked with kids and families that said this was such a helpful tool for them to use.
What's cool is that over the years Michelle Garcia Winner has asked people all over the world to make up new Unthinkables. It's been really interesting to see the different characters that other kids have come up with. And there’s also been more Thinkables created as well, supporting Superflex in defeating all those Unthinkables.
Here are a few simple ways you can talk about Rock Brain at home with your child.
ACTIVITIES FOR ROCK BRAIN
Compare and constrast objects
Even a simple activity comparing hard objects, like rocks to playdoh or flexible brains (kind of like stress balls) can be a helpful visual and tactile learning experience for kids.
Books to read
Superflex takes on Rock Brain and the Team of Unthinkables - I think this was the first in the series of Superflex books. Out of all of the Superflex books, I like it the best. I feel like some of the later books have too many words on the pages and kids have said it’s too much.
Don’t let the pigeon drive the bus! - My family loves Mo Willems books and this is currently my son’s favorite. Pigeon is a perfect example of getting stuck on an idea.
Videos to watch
Adults acting out Rock Brain then showing the expected way to act - I like showing these to kids. They think it’s hilarious to watch adults behave in unexpected ways!