A Highly Recommended Book
I highly recommend the book Socially Curious and Curiously Social. It is a social guide for students on the autism spectrum that will help teens and young adults with Asperger’s Syndrome, ADHD, PDD-NOS, non-verbal learning disabilities (NVLD) and other social learning issues. The authors Michelle Garcia Winner and Pamela Crooke are speech therapists with years of experience running social skills classes and this experience shows in the way the material is written at a perfect level for the intended audience.
Developing Social Skills Begins with “Social Thinking”
The authors explain that learning how to make friends begins with learning “social thinking”. This involves figuring out what the people around you are thinking and how your actions impact what others think about you. The reader learns through many anecdotes and even comic book style illustrations how social thinking impacts social skills. As the authors explain – social thinking involves ‘thinking” and social skills involve acting. Readers learn about why unexpected behaviors make others have uncomfortable thoughts and those thoughts become barriers to friendships. As readers learn these basic concepts they move on to more complex chapters that build on a pyramid of previous learning.
Negotiating the Complex Social World
Socially Curious and Curiously Social explains the many skills and strategies involved in making and keeping friends. This book teaches students that:
Social expectations and social rules change over time, situations and with age.
Strategies for becoming part of social groups and “networking”.
The verbal language we use varies from situation to situation.
At times they need to “social fake” such as acting interested when they aren’t.
Small talk is important.
There is a hierarchy of friendship (from being friendly to being a close friend).
The authors also explain the differences between being a bully vs. acting like a jerk (we all do this at times) and the social pitfalls to avoid while using social media such as Facebook or text messages. In addition, readers will appreciate the chapters about the nuances of flirting and romantic relationships.
An Effective Learning Tool and Guide
Socially Curious and Curiously Social is written in a fun, easy to read style for intelligent and motivated students. The authors focus on the reasons behind problematic behaviors rather than on the negative traits associated with specific disabilities. Important and complex concepts such as how to tell the difference between sarcasm and a true insult are clearly explained and the authors are extremely sensitive to the fragile egos of the special audience. In addition, understanding these concepts should help reduce anxiety which in turn promotes positive social interactions.
Students will find that reading this book is like spending time with a social mentor whom they can return to as needed. This book can function as a social guide for students on the autism spectrum and others with social learning issues to help them negotiate their socially complex lives.
As an occupational therapist and a mother of a college student with Asperger’s syndrome I wish every high school administrator recognized the need for real life mentors who run groups similar to the ones the authors describe because social thinking is a life skill more important than learning algebra or writing a book report. I highly recommend that teachers, school administrators and parents read this book for a deeper understanding of the challenges and strategies that will help these students.