Crash! Boom! Snap!
Speed walking through the last grocery aisle for pantry necessities, a sudden, unexpected crash from the nearby bakery department sent a shot of adrenaline through my fatigued mom brain, body and spirit. After another sleepless night trying to comfort my son and an exhaustive day of putting out one emotional fire after another, I knew full well what the repercussions of this crash would be as my body shifted into high alert mode, bracing for the inevitable impact.
In the moment of one long drawn inhale, my eyes locked with my sons dilated pupils. This crash was the last straw of an emotionally spent 24+ hours and the push into a full blown, sensory overload meltdown. In an instant, the thrashing of an overwhelmed little boy flooded with emotion began as the tears flowed from both our eyes. Scooping up my son and dropping to the ground right in the middle of the grocery aisle, I held my precious boy in a mama bear hold praying for strength, praying for grace and praying for courage to be the parent I needed to be.
Though this moment in time was one experienced several years ago now, very early in the days of my sons diagnosis with Autism Spectrum Disorder, I can still remember rocking my son back and forth on that cold, cement floor as the tears fell from my eyes. I can still feel the sting of uncomfortable gazes from other parents as they quickly maneuvered their littles away from us, knowing it was not safe to approach in that moment.
No doubt about it, this was a tough parenting moment. But it was one of many in my journey as a parent that opened my eyes to a level of Connection, Attunement, Care, Support and Nurturing that I needed to learn, grow in and understand if I was going to be able to effectively support my children in their life’s journey and my students in their lives as well.
“Social thinking is the process by which we interpret the thoughts, beliefs, intentions, emotions, knowledge and actions of another person along with the context of the situation to understand that person’s experience.” -Michelle Garcia Winner, Founder of Social Thinking
Social thinking is a concept that was introduced to me several years ago by one of my sons amazing therapists. It is a concept that essentially speaks to our “meaning maker;” how we interpret the root of another person’s actions and further, how we respond to it.
For neurodiverse vs. neurotypical children, social thinking can be a very hard concept to master. As their bodies are so often conditioned to heightened sensory input; whether it be visual, auditory, or tactile i.e. touch, olfactory i.e. smell or gustatory i.e. taste, it can be hard to move through the force of a sensory experience to be able to engage in the social setting of any given moment.
To better understand the lens through which a neurodiverse friend might see the world, please check out this incredibly insightful video: Click HERE to watch the video.
Whether neurodiverse or neurotypical, social thinking is something that each and every one of us use daily. And it is a skill that we can constantly grow in and improve upon! But where do we begin?
- Self-Awareness: As we and our children become ever more clear on our own thought processes, feelings, emotions as well as how we act upon them, we become more and more attuned to the thoughts, feelings and actions of another person. While this certainly helps to improve one’s ability to engage in a variety of social situations, it further helps to support our children in their reading comprehension for example. Further, improving social thinking can support youth in expressive writing, art and musical expression, making and keeping friends as well as working together in a team!
- Knowing Your Child’s Sensory Profile: Is your child sensitive to lighting, sound, the sensation of certain clothing materials on their skin? Or is your child perhaps sensitive to the smell of specific perfumes or colognes, maybe even tastes and textures of certain foods? Whether neurodiverse or neurotypical, each and every one of us have certain strong likes and dislikes when it comes to our sensory systems. Be mindful of the moments when your child may be experiencing heightened sensory input as it can contribute significantly to their ability to 1. Function in a given environment 2. Interpret what is happening around them and 3. Be able to do what they need to do in the moment.
- Adaptability: Just as I knew upon the moment of my son hearing the crashing pans in the grocery store that he would need me to help create safety, hold him close and hold space, so too do you need to be prepared for the unexpected! Sudden shifts in our minds, bodies and spirits can certainly happen out of the blue. But more often than not, there are signs, insights and clues into your child’s thoughts, feelings and inevitable actions through the gift of their words and body language that we can become attuned to and thus adapt to accordingly. While in some cases, we can see the writing on the wall and reverse course before our children find themselves in an emotionally flooded state, there are other times where we cannot avoid the unexpected in a necessary errand like me trying to buy food for our family on what I knew was a hard day for my son. Though I could not avoid the necessary grocery run, I could be prepared to be the parent that I needed to be no matter what!
Supporting each and every one of our students on and beyond the mats in their ability to check in with themselves while being attuned to their unique needs is a very big part of our capability to be adaptable to the needs of our friends in any given moment. Understanding, supporting and nurturing social thinking takes time and consistent practice. But it is a skill that never ceases to help children, teens and adults alike flourish!
I hope this insight into the power of social thinking inspires you to look not only at your child’s “meaning maker,” but your own as well! As always, should you have any questions or need further assistance in supporting your child physically, intellectually, emotionally and/or socially, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our amazing team who is here to support, guide and nurture your family in the journey.
Want to learn more about Social Thinking? Click HERE to visit socialthinking.com
About the Author
Meg Klettke is the proud owner alongside her husband, Alex of Family Strong Sussex, a SKILLZ Lifetime Gold studio in Southeastern Wisconsin. With a background in traditional and alternative therapeutics, Meg is an active advocate for today’s youth. Her passion for supporting and nurturing the whole child resonates through all she does as a Proud Ninja Mom of two boys with special needs, Certified Pediatric Ninja Specialist and Content Creator for SKILLZ Worldwide.