Tech Tuesday: Summer Study Series and “What Does It Mean to Be Social? - MindWing Concepts, Inc.

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Tech Tuesday: Summer Study Series and “What Does It Mean to Be Social?”

by Sean Sweeney August 24, 2020 4 min read

For our last 😢entry in our “Summer Study Series” for 2020, we look at a perspective on social cognition with a twist: how are children with significant speech sound disorders, such as apraxia of speech, impacted within the sequence of developing social competencies?

ASHAWire logoThis article, What Does It Mean to Be Social? Defining the Social Landscape for Children With Childhood Apraxia of Speech, is provided by Nancy Tarshis, Michelle Garcia Winner, and Pamela Crooke (2020) and was released within ASHA’s Perspectives (Special Interest Group 2) journal available to anyone with a SIG membership in any specialty. For others, the article is behind a paywall, so I hope this review at least will be helpful.

I have found SIG membership (SIG 1, Language Learning and Education, and SIG 18, Telepractice) to be invaluable both for these practical, research-based and peer-reviewed articles, and for the discussion boards, which, let’s just say, are a more valuable learning experience than Facebook speech and language groups, but that’s just my $.02.

Social Thinking logoThis article was written by the founder and key authors and speakers within the Social Thinking® methodology, which many of you will recognize as having key synergies with MindWing’s approach and tools for narrative and expository language development. Both this author and Maryellen Rooney Moreau have spoken frequently at the Social Thinking Providers’ Conference over the years, and you can read about past connections we have made here or by searching the MindWing website for the term “Social Thinking.”

The authors describe the following concepts within this article:
  • Developing a social mind starts early, of course, and critical activities involve learning to play on the playground and observing and navigating play in the early childhood classroom. Being social, critically, involves “getting the narrative” and “trying to figure out what people are doing (or meaning) when they are not physically present (TV, movies, YouTube videos, literature, newspaper, text streams, Instagram, etc.)” as well as understanding one’s role in a situation. A key element of Social Thinking’s concepts includes perspective taking, as at any age “we don’t get to decide” what someone thinks about what we are doing; our agency extends only to our own actions.
  • Social Competency Model imageSocial Thinking’s Social Competency Model serves as a guide for understanding and scaffolding social development across 4 levels and competencies to be applied in any given situation: Social Attention, Social Interpretation, Problem Solving and Social Responses. In Social Attention, “from their early school years, students are expected to describe “the setting” of a novel or storybook as well as naturally infer how the setting connects to what may be happening with the characters in that setting.” Sound familiar?
  • Problem Solving map imageThis aligns with narrative developmental sequences including Descriptive and Action Sequences (as outlined with Story Grammar Marker®). Social Interpretation includes making sense of others’ thoughts and plans, so moves through Reactive into Abbreviated and Complete Episodes, as well as the Critical Thinking Triangle®. Within Problem Solving and Responsiveness to situations (and play), the Complete Episode is also valuable, though chiefly we are moving toward thinking, understanding and acting within Interactive and Complex Episodes (see also the problem solving model related to SGM® I described in a previous blog).
  • A key section of this article describes the role of imitation and modeling within communication and play, and a breakdown in the cycle of scaffolding that occurs when children have difficulty with imitation in both motor and speech domains. Difficulties in imitation result in parents and caregivers providing less modeling, complicating the development of “social reactivity” in the child. As children develop and their social landscape becomes increasingly complex, play takes on an important role: “To be a good player, one needs to keep in mind the plan, one’s role, the roles of play partners, and the movement of the scenario across time and space as it adapts and changes in reaction to the ever-shifting ideas of all the players” (all of which can play out in narrative language and its scaffolding). When speech sound production difficulties are added to this milieu, we can see the potential compounding of communication issues.
  • Braidy the StoryBraid doll imageIn the realm of intervention, the authors go on to recommend holistic contextual treatment approaches such as DIR/Floortime (“joining the child where they are” in play) and incorporating achievable speech targets such as EEK, uh-oh, oh no, oops. Through this stage and going forward, Braidy the StoryBraid® can be an essential visual scaffold for play development and additional use of speech targets. While not mentioned in We Thinkers imagethe article specifically, the authors’ We Thinkers! curricula consisting of stories and play activities targeting key social learning concepts (The Group Plan, Thinking With Your Eyes) are resources I have come to view as essential in my practice. The Social Thinking Group Play, Collaboration and Problem Solving Scale (GPS, included in Volume 2 of We Thinkers!) also provides a great road map for scaffolding play developmentally within topics, and Braidy® can be integrated at each step of the way.

Overall, this article provided a very valuable view of the development of social competencies relevant for many populations. It expanded my thinking about approaching treatment for students with speech sound disorders, and I admit to having worked with them too much in isolation in the past!

As we always try to provide, here are two points of practical technology-related advice:

  1. iMovie sample screenVideo modeling is an essential research-based tool in scaffolding play. Helpful videos can be produced without editing using your camera app on your phone or iPad, or if editing is needed, it is simple with iMovie or similar apps. Consider providing a model of “the story” of playing with a particular game, toy playset, pretend play tools, or even LEGO.
  2. Felt Board Sample ScreenApps such as Felt Board allow demonstration of actions within a scene and can be used in tele- or in-person sessions to preview or rehearse play within a given context, again using Braidy® visuals as a scaffold.
Sean Sweeney
Sean Sweeney

Sean Sweeney, MS, MEd, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist and technology specialist working in private practice at the Ely Center in Needham, MA, and as a clinical supervisor at Boston University. He consults to local and national organizations on technology integration in speech and language interventions. His blog, SpeechTechie (, looks at technology “through a language lens.” Contact him at

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