Ana and Sandra first met in 2005 when Sandra evaluated Ana's son for communication delays. Since that time, Sandra has been her sons primary speech-language therapist and has overseen his intervention plan. Ana and Sandra have partnered towards his wellness focusing on language abilities so that he could successfully participate in the general education curriculum, social activities and peer interaction.
In 2011 after focusing on increasing his language abilities (through individual speech-language therapy and small group interaction), Ana and Sandra realized that his social use of language success depended on practicing outside the confines of a traditional therapeutic environment.
Simultaneously, Ana's daughter was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome. Her daughter's symptom profile and intervention plan looked very different from her sons in that she had developed and could use extensive sophisticated language but demonstrated difficulty in her ability for perspective taking.
Without perspective it is difficult to identify how the social world works and what language and skills are necessary to successfully participate. Without the ability to take perspective, children can experience great difficulty navigating the school environment as well as establishing and maintain peer relationships.
It was through Ana's children's eyes, that Ana and Sandra began researching and seeking a curriculum or program that would combine language and perspective building. These skills were felt to be critical in setting the foundation for building social skills across the age span. This is the root from which the Social Mind Center started to emerge.
A group of colleagues began meeting to discuss teaching strategies that would benefit all children to acquire the social skills that would help them to succeed in life. Discussions surrounding the development of social language abilities focused on a multitude of environments (aside for a traditional therapy setting).
Environments that would be conducive for modeling and coaching children (from elementary through high school) on developing social communication skills. This thinking lead to the idea of creating a social center where children could practice their developing social skills in a safe environment but one that reflected activities that all children are participating. Activities such as birthday parties, play dates and school activities.
The Center would offer different types of classes such as art, drama, and tutoring with the emphasis across all activities on an underlying social curriculum. Across activities, children would have an ongoing opportunity to practice social skills being taught within the Center.
In order to effectively teach social skills you must teach a deeper understanding of social relations and social communication. Social learning students must understand how the social world works and why specific social skills are important in different contexts (Winner, 2007). In addition, Ana and Sandra felt that children need modeling of this behavior and the opportunity to role-play or practice.
In search of a curriculum Ana and Sandra found Michelle Garcia-Winners, Social Thinking®. Michelle's material extensively incorporates all aspects of social learning skills into an expansive curriculum on perspective building. What makes Social Thinking's® philosophy effective is the evolving skill building curriculum.