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Social Thinking

Social thinking is a type of group or individual instruction designed improve social cognition, such as perspective taking. It emphasizes teaching children with autism the foundation of social knowledge to develop successful social behaviors.


Successful social interaction requires effective social cognition. Social cognition refers to the ability to attribute mental states (i.e., desires, beliefs, thoughts, imagination, and emotions) to oneself and to others (Baron-Cohen, 1989). Baron-Cohen (1989) reported that students on the autism spectrum have difficulties predicting others’ behavior, reading intentions, making sense of emotions, or understanding others’ perspectives. He referred to these challenges as “the mind blindness” (Baron-Cohen, 2005). Social cognition is directly related to social performance.

A social thinking curriculum emphasizes coaching students with ASD on appropriate social thinking skills to facilitate social knowledge and reciprocal social interaction. The purpose of social thinking is to describe and explain social concepts and situations in order to make them concrete and understandable. This includes explaining what others might be thinking and making connections between social knowledge and the use of social skills (Crooke, Hendrix, & Rachman, 2008). Visual supports, social narratives, and video models are often used to enhance understanding of social situations.

Research Summary

Ages (yrs) Skills Settings Outcome
3-16 Social, communication, behavior, social-cognitive, interpersonal, emotional regulation, adaptive Home, school, community

Outcomes:     Evidence-based     Emerging     No evidence     Comprehensive

Steps for Implementation


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