Social Behavior Mapping – How it works

social behavior mappingI love the tool “social behavior map” from Michelle Garcia Winner’s Social Thinking program!

My adult Aspergers clients often can’t understand why their “unexpected behaviors” cause problems in their relationships.  Here’s how it works:

  1. The“Unexpected behavior” is (for example) : Talking constantly about a topic of interest only to the speaker and not sharing the conversation, or showing interest in the listeners.
  2. This “Makes others feel” : sad, bored, frustrated, not cared about.
  3. The “Natural consequences the speaker experiences” are : angry faces, bored faces,  listeners don’t want to hang out with him, listeners tease him or say mean things.
  4. That “Makes the speaker feel”: upset, ignored, unhappy.

Follow the social behavior map from left to right.  Seeing this chain reaction clearly explained helped my clients to understand how their behavior affects others.  Now they understand the connection between behavior #1. and feeling #4.  Behavior #1. causes feeling #4. but my students didn’t realize there were steps between #1. and #4.   Seeing all the steps helped them to add the missing social information that help them make better decisions using their social thinking!

Social behavior mapping can be used with any behavior.  You can map out an “expected” or a good behavior, and see how good feelings follow it.  You can map out an “unexpected” behavior (one that makes others feel weird or uncomfortable), and see how bad feelings follow it.

Get a free printable of a social behavior map, blank.

Get a free printable of a social behavior map, with examples.

See the Social Thinking website for more info.

The Hard Truth About Social Memory

Social Skills AspergersPeople who know you have a social memory of you. People who work with you or go to school with you have a social memory of you.

My adult clients with Aspergers, a type of high-functioning autism, have trouble knowing and using this information. It’s like when someone has a meltdown at school or work and when it’s over, and they’ve recovered, but they seem to forget that their words and behavior during the event is something you will still remember. They don’t understand why people might still have hurt feelings or embarrassment about what happened. If you’re neurotypical (someone without Aspergers) you have a memory of how you felt with them, but they (the Asperger person) seem to forget that anything bad happened.

The problem with social memory is we don’t forget. Those of us who work and live with Asperger folks remember how we feel around that one person who’s not using his social thinking and social skills.

Each weird or uncomfortable feeling is like a red stick in a cup. Each neutral, or good feeling, is a green stick. When a person says or does something that makes you have a weird or uncomfortable thought, you file that away as a “red stick”, or as something that made your feel weird or uncomfortable.

When a person says or does something that makes you have a neutral or a good thought, you file that away as a “green stick”, or as something that made your feel good, or at least neutral.

Here’s the big thing about social skills: We want to keep using social skills so those around us (those we share space with) continue to have good feelings about us, or at least neutral feelings. If others around us have bad feelings about us, we need to work on our social skills!

The hard truth about the “red sticks”, or the weird, uncomfortable feelings is they can never be covered up, painted over or removed. They will always be there. If this is happens to you, then be encouraged. There is something you can do about it. The way to make the “red sticks” feel less noticeable is to add lots of “green sticks” or lots of behavior that will cause the other person to have neutral, or good, feelings. You can’t take away a person’s social memory of you, but you can add “green sticks”, that is neutral or positive feelings, by using good social skills, and this will make the “red sticks” seem smaller and less memorable.

For more on social thinking, look at Michelle Garcia Winner’s website Social Thinking.



Paper Suck Tic Tac Toe – Updated

Paper Suck Tic Tac Toe

When working with kids who have tongue thrust (also called myofunctional disorders) I like to play games, and one of our favorites is Paper Suck Tic Tac Toe. 

Straw practice with “oo” lips, and the straw in front of the teeth promotes the back tongue movement needed for correct swallow, and speech production.

To play you’ll need paper pieces, playing board and 2 straws.   Cut out the Xs and Os and lay them on the table. Each player needs 5. Players take turns using their straw to suck up the paper piece, and place it on the gameboard (without using their hands.) Like regular tic tac toe, 3-in-a-row wins!   When sucking paper:

  • Use “oo” lips.
  • Keep the straw in front of your teeth.

To make it easier use a fat straw, or cut the straw in half.

To make it harder, use a skinny straw and increase the weight of the paper pieces. You can use cardstock.   You can double the paper (crimp the corners so the pieces stick together.)

See my Paper Suck Tic Tac Toe Resource on TeachersPayTeachers.

Social Thinking – Replace Words that Don’t Work!

When teaching social thinking to an adult client with Aspergers (a kind of high-functioning autism), there were a few words we got caught on. I wanted to talk about his “meltdowns” and he called them times he “got excited”.

We discussed how unexpected behavior caused others to have “weird” thought about you.  He said “weird can be good”.  That evolved into a discussion of “good weird” – creative, interesting, innovative, etc. and “bad weird” – uncomfortable, creepy, gross, not good behavior, etc. I changed the wording and this client understood the idea when I called it “bad weird”.

Michelle Garcia WinnerEven Michelle Garcia Winner, in her book “Thinking about YOU Thinking about ME” suggests word-changing when a client gets stuck on a word, calling problems “glitches” and curfews “reasonable restrictions”, when needed.

Don’t get caught on the language. The concept your client verbalizes, if it’s close enough to the idea, or you can change the wording for him or her to understand, then do it! As long as the ideas you are teaching him or her are getting through, don’t get stuck on the words. Replace them if you need to.

Click to learn more about the Social Thinking.



Why Do I Need Social Skills?

I’m going to work with a young man with Aspergers (a type of high-functioning autism). He’s graduated from high school but not yet begun college. He’s needing some help with his social skills. To begin our journey into social skills we’ll talk about the skills he knows and I’ll help fill in the blanks.

I use Michelle Garcia Winner’s Social Thinking program. It takes your student to a deeper level of understanding – the “why” of social skills. Why do we need social skills? That’s a good question! In her book “Socially Curious and Curiously Social” Winner and associate Pamela Crooke explain,

“Some of you reading this might be saying to yourself, “I like to be alone most of the time, so I don’t really need to learn all this social thinking stuff. It doesn’t apply to me, right?


You are a member of the human race, and in our society we have to interact with other people in order to survive. We interact with our family members, classmates, and teachers, when we shop for groceries or browse the video store. When we’re taking a walk or navigating through the hallways at school between classes, we’re using social thinking. Even when you’re home alone, playing a computer game or doing homework or updating your webpage, you still need your social thinking brain.

In fact, if you think about it, most computer or video games are based on building or destroying relationships between people, creatures or animals. Web pages are created to connect us on a social level with others, and homework almost always involves thinking about what the teacher wants (yes, that’s social thinking too.) The reality is that social thinking is everywhere. Actually when you think about the number of times you have to think about another person or share space effectively each and every day – it’s amazing! It happens thousands of times a day! We can pretty easily say that social thinking happens almost all the time everywhere we go (even dreams engage your social brain). And that’s why it’s so important to learn to be good social thinkers.”

“Curiously Social and Socially Curious” is aimed at teenagers and young adults.  It’s practical and explains the ins and outs of social thinking, with real-life examples of teens and young adults. It’s written like someone cares about making sure you have the information you need to be successful socially, and don’t we all need that sometimes? Yes!







Benefits of Belly Breathing

Here’s a simple thing that will help a person with Aspergers or high-functioning autism: belly breathing.

Belly breathing is using the diaphragm to lower and expand the belly for breathing.  The diaphragm is the curved muscle located horizontally between the chest cavity and the stomach.

How do you know what kind of breathing someone is doing?  Watch the belly, chest and shoulders of a person as they breathe.  If the belly goes in and out with breathing, they are doing abdominal or belly breathing.

If only the upper chest expands or only the shoulders rise, then the person is not doing belly breathing.  Instead they are only using the muscles of the chest and/or shoulders to breathe.  This is the most inefficient way to get air into the body, and it affects speech as well as body and overall health.

Abdominal, or belly breathing, is the most efficient and healthy because expanding the diaphragm and belly downward delivers large amounts of oxygen to the bloodstream, and provides proper breath support for speech. Abdominal breathing utilizes muscles in the abdomen to keep pressure away from the voice and throat, and promotes effective talking.

An added benefit is abdominal breathing stimulates the relaxation response, resulting in less tension and an overall sense of well-being. People with Aspergers and high-functioning autism report they feel more frequent stress and anxiety than NTs (neurotypicals).  Often a poorly functioning sensory system and difficulty in social situations cause increased stress to folks with Aspergers or autism.  Belly breathing has benefits for them.

How to Belly Breathe

  1. Lie on a flat surface (floor is better than bed)
  2. Place one hand on your belly.
  3. Breathe in through your nose to the Count of 4.  You should feel your belly and hand rise.
  4. Hold to the count of 7.
  5. Breathe out slowly through your mouth to the count of 8. You should feel your belly and hand lower.


abdominal breathing benefitsIf 4-7-8 is too difficult, shorten it as first and try to work up to those numbers over time.

If your belly is not rising, (your shoulders are instead) try to make your muscles rise the belly on purpose.  You can try to hold your hands on your shoulders to prevent the shoulders from rising.

Belly breathing exercises can be done every day and bring a host of benefits!