"Autism & Memoirs of an Old Maid"…C'hele's Story

August 28, 2007

Autism: Helping Children With Perspective Taking/Social Cognitive Deficits ~ The Workshop I Attended Presented by Michelle Garcia Winner, MA, CCC-SLP

Filed under: Autism, Special Needs — C'hele @ 20:26
If anyone ever has the chance to attend a workshop by Michelle Garcia Winner, I cannot recommend it highly enough. In the world of higher functioning autism and Asperger Syndrome, she is on the verge of revolutionizing older approaches, strategies and treatments to assist these individuals. To all parents, professionals, aides and parapro’s out there, please take the opportunity to go and listen to her if she comes out near your area. I walked out of that conference so incredibly excited with the information and knowledge that she “gifted” me with and I cannot wait to utilize it towards my daughter and the students I work for. There is so much knowledge that she imparted that I literally do not know where to start here. Nor would I want to attempt to do so, for fear of completely messing up her philosophy and work. So, I recommend to all of you to check out and read her work. Her website is: http://www.socialthinking.com. Michelle was witty, funny and incredibly brilliant. It was worth the $275.00 to attend and listen to her. Her work on the ILAUGH model of Social Cognition, Perspective Taking, Theory of Mind and Language/Communication is going to help change the world of these kids. I have to add that Michelle’s work is not limited to high functioning autistic and Asperger’s individuals. It also includes people who have been labelled as: ADD/ADHD, Tourette’s Syndrome, NVLD, PDD/NOS, and kids/people labelled as Emotionally Disturbed.

Reflecting upon everything I learned, Michelle’s work is all about blending inquisitiveness and humour to discover and learn about the minds and needs of our autistic children and students. To not rely completely on labels alone when we teach them and to take the time to get to know our kids and figure them out. Treat the symptoms, not the label. Most importantly, to teach our kids to “think with their eyes” because eyes have thoughts behind them. There is an intent behind eye contact and as most of us know, autistic children do not make eye contact with others. If they can look at you or an object with their eyes, they are listening and communicating. Michelle believes that language and perspective taking must come together in order to be a good communicator. The biggest thing that impacted me was Michelle’s comment of “are we looking at things too behaviourally?”

Working at the autism centre I cannot help but confess, that yes we do. Our centre does look at things this way. In all fairness, our kids range from high functioning to lower functioning kids who have the tendencies to become violent. Michelle’s work is more effective with higher functioning and often incredibly intelligent/gifted, verbal autistic kids. Some of our kids are somewhere in middle. Bright, willing to learn and hard workers who need constant redirection from their own rich, inner worlds. Many of them are non-verbal. In my opinion, our centre needs a variety of teaching methods. Michelle’s would definitely become an asset for some of our higher functioning kids. The autism centre must have been feeling the same way. At the end of the school year the staff held a couple of meetings to review our kids with the programs Behavioural Consultant. Many times the consultant brought up Michelle Garcia Winners name. Now I see why. I hope that the centre is successful in adapting as much as they can, Michelle’s work.

Some recommended books written from Michelle Garcia Winner:

1. Think Social, A Social Thinking Curriculum for School-Age Student

2. Thinking About YOU, Thinking about ME: Philosophy and Strategies to Further Develop Perspective Taking and Communicative Abilities for Persons with Social Cognitive Deficits.

3. Worksheets! For Teaching Social Thinking and Related Skills

4. Sticker Strategies: Practical Strategies to Encourage Social Thinking and Organization.

5. Strategies for Organization: Preparing for Homework and the Real World

Other great books I found at the workshop:

1. The Hidden Curriculum: Practical Solutions for Understanding Unstated Rules in Social Situations by Brenda Smith Myles, Melissa L. Trautman, & Ronda L. Schelvan.

2. A “5” Could Make Me Loose Control!, An activity-based method for evaluating and supporting highly anxious students by Kari Dunn Buron.

I didn’t find this book at the workshop but purchased it elsewhere. It was also mentioned at the workshop:

1. Exploring Feelings: Cognitive Behaviour Therapy To Manage ANXIETY by Dr. Tony Attwood.

To those who have or work with kids with autism and related disorders, I highly recommend that you add some of Michelle’s work in your repertoire of autism resources. Her approach is personally, right down my alley. She approaches all of her students humanely, authentically, fairly, utilizes lots of humour and works from a team approach. Her work is a breath of fresh air!




  1. I’ve found that the incredible five point scale works very well for mine and it’s also very adaptable with all the examples they give.
    Best wishes

    Comment by mcewen — August 29, 2007 @ 05:34

  2. I really enjoyed reading about what you learned, and the new perspectives Michelle provided you with. Your excitement and enthusiasm are contagious!

    Comment by davidrochester — September 2, 2007 @ 22:20

  3. I am so glad that you had this experience, I hear so much about Michelle, and hope to attend a conference. In the meantime, the info you share has become a valuable resource for me. Hmmm… five point scale — I think I’ll check that one out right away. Thanks C’hele, for so openly sharing what you have learned.

    Comment by Sherri — September 3, 2007 @ 19:02

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