Cart
Search
Menu

About

Michelle Garcia Winner

Founder & CEO Social Thinking • MA, CCC-SLP

Michelle Garcia Winner, MA, CCC-SLP, is the founder and CEO of Social Thinking and a globally recognized thought leader, author, speaker, and social-cognitive therapist. She is dedicated to helping people of all ages develop social emotional learning, including those with social learning differences. Across her 30-year career she has created numerous evidence-based strategies, treatment frameworks, and curricula to help interventionists develop social competencies in those they support. Michelle's work also teaches how social competencies impact people's broader lives, including their ability to foster relationships and their academic and career performance. She and her team continually update the Social Thinking® Methodology based on the latest research and insights they learn from their clients.

Michelle maintains a private practice, The Center for Social Thinking, in Santa Clara, California, where she works with clients who continue to teach and inspire her. She travels globally presenting courses on the Social Thinking Methodology, an evidence-based approach she created that she continues to evolve and expand on. Michelle helps to develop educational programs, consults with and trains families and schools, and is a guiding presence with a wide range of professionals, politicians, and businesses on the topic of social emotional competencies. She is a prolific writer and has written and/or co-authored more than 40 books and over 100 articles about the Social Thinking Methodology.

Michelle receives accolades for her energetic and educational conference presentations, as well as her down-to-earth approach to teaching social competencies. The strength of Michelle's work is her ability to break down abstract social concepts and teach them in practical, concrete ways to help people improve their social problem solving abilities and social responses.

Career Summary

Michelle’s interest in autism while attending the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 1979 became the catalyst for becoming a speech language pathologist (SLP). Her first two mentors in the field were the late Dr. Carol Prutting (an early pioneer in the study of social pragmatics) and Dr. Robert Koegel (founder of Pivotal Response Therapy, aligned with ABA). While attending graduate school at Indiana University, Bloomington she became involved in the Indiana Resource Center for Autism (IRCA) under the leadership of Nancy Dalrymple, who became another strong mentor for Michelle. At IRCA in the 1980s, Michelle worked extensively with teens and young adults who would by today’s standard be referred to as “classically autistic.” Her students experienced significant intellectual learning challenges, weak speech/language development, and very limited social learning abilities. Michelle excelled at combining her knowledge of communication with behaviorism to help her more cognitively challenged students develop basic functional communication and social skills through behavioral teachings.

 

After returning home to California in the late 1980s, Michelle transitioned to working in hospitals and post-acute hospital rehabilitation centers with neurotypical learners who suffered from head injuries or strokes. There she learned about higher-level brain functioning and cognitive rehabilitation. In 1995, her career transitioned once more when she became the SLP for a public high school district. Her caseload was comprised of many older students who had relatively strong intelligence and language, but who lacked more refined social communication skills. The Social Thinking Methodology was born out of necessity as a way to reach those “bright but socially clueless students” who needed more information about how to navigate the social world than just memorizing dialogue to use in conversation. They needed to know why they should bother to converse at all, or even interact with others in their environment. The Social Thinking Methodology was born!

  

Michelle opened her private practice, the Center for Social Thinking, in 1998 and was met with high demand that continues to rise to this day. Trained professionals work with individuals ages 4 through adulthood in individual and group settings. Michelle continues to carry an active caseload of clients, in addition to consulting with families and schools on the Social Thinking Methodology and designing programs tailored to the individual’s needs. Michelle also started the company now called Social Thinking Publishing, Inc. to handle the growing public speaking demand from the national and international stage, as well as to publish her and others’ books on the Social Thinking Methodology. Michelle has written and/or co-authored more than 20 books on Social Thinking and her work is being applied not only to persons with higher-functioning autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, ADD/ADHD, and related disabilities, but also more broadly to students in mainstream classrooms and to adults in vocational and professional settings in the U.S. and abroad.

 

Praise

In 2016, her approach led GreatSchools.org, a leading national nonprofit organization, to call Michelle, "...the leading expert in the field of social skills."

 

In 2008, Michelle was honored with a Congressional Special Recognition Award for her groundbreaking work in the field of social learning.

 

"...one of my favorite authors in the field of teaching emotional intelligence. Michelle Garcia Winner has pioneered some very helpful ways of conceptualizing and helping educators understand the social challenges that students on the autism spectrum face." - Stephan Borgman, 2010, Psychology Today, "Spectrum Solutions"

 

Research

To check out the Social Thinking Research homepage, click here.

 

Research published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders supports using Social Thinking Vocabulary with individuals with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. Learn more here.

 

Personal

Michelle lives in San Jose, CA with her partner and has two daughters, Heidi and Robyn.

 

Financial Disclosure

Financial: Michelle Garcia Winner is employed by Think Social Publishing, Inc. as an author/speaker and receives compensation for her presentations as well as the sale of her books and by the Social Thinking Center as a clinician. Michelle owns the companies Think Social Publishing, Inc as well as The Social Thinking Center, Inc. and their related intellectual property.   

 

Non-financial: No relevant non-financial relationship exists.

 

Certified Social Thinking Training & Speakers' Collaborative Member

 

Social Thinking Training & Speakers' Collaborative

 

 

Michelle Garcia Winner is officially trained and sanctioned by Think Social Publishing to provide trainings related to the Social Thinking Methodology. Before attending a training in your area, please make sure to look for the official STTSC member badge.

Honors & Awards

  • Congressional Recognition Award, 2008

    Congressional Recognition Award, 2008

    Michelle Garcia Winner received a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition for her groundbreaking work helping individuals who have autism spectrum disorders and related social thinking challenges. Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey honored Michelle with the award, as the social thinking methods Michelle has developed are becoming the basis for curricula around the country.

  • Lifetime Achievement Award, the Prentice School, 2012

    Lifetime Achievement Award, the Prentice School, 2012

    Michelle received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Prentice School on the 24th of February. Carol Clark, the administrative executive director of Prentice School, presented the award to Michelle at the Social Thinking conference hosted by the Prentice School in Santa Ana, CA, for her innovative contributions to parents, professionals and individuals with social and communication challenges. The Prentice School is an independent, nonprofit school for students who struggle with reading, writing, spelling, oral language, and math. Upon humbly receiving the award, Michelle jokingly stated that while the award makes her sound brilliant within her field, during her years in school she was an average student who planned on always being a speech-language pathologist. Even through her years working in the school systems as an SLP she stated, “the principle never knew what to do with me, so she just let me work with my students as I pleased. I was able to re-organize their class schedules so that they all were able to come to their speech class with me.” Her goal was simply to give her students the best possible education both from a social and a scholastic standpoint. It was during these years that she spent as an SLP in the school that she started the development of a social communication curriculum, which in time grew into Social Thinking. Michelle had never planned on Social Thinking becoming what it is today: a curriculum used around the world with all ages, abilities and cultures.

  • Outstanding Achievement Award, California Speech- Language-Hearing Association (CSHA), 2012

    Outstanding Achievement Award, California Speech- Language-Hearing Association (CSHA), 2012

    California Speech, Language and Hearing Association (CSHA), District 4 – Outstanding Achievement Award to Dr. Pamela Crooke and Michelle Garcia Winner.

  • Community Partner Award, Massachusetts Association for the Blind (MAB) Community Services, 2016

    Community Partner Award, Massachusetts Association for the Blind (MAB) Community Services, 2016

    Michelle was humbled to receive this award, here is MAB's statement about why she was chosen: "We honor you for your great courage and for the beautiful example you set for the others inspired to make a difference as you do."

Recent Articles

What Is Shared Imagination & Why Is It So Important to Relationship Development?

Author(s): Michelle Garcia Winner, MA, CCC-SLP and Pamela Crooke, PhD, CCC-SLP

Engaging in conversations requires more than meets the eye! For us to understand and teach shared imagination and why it’s essential to conversational skills and relationship development, we must first define, understand, and observe singular imagination. It’s our ability to create feelings, thoughts, experiences, and imaginary worlds internally. While this may be a kind of personal creative superpower, individuals who solely experience singular imagination may struggle to relate to, imagine, and share others’ thoughts, feelings, and experiences—sharing an imagination—so vital to conversation and social connection.

Read More

Making the Connection Between Dynamic Assessment and Treatment to Develop Social Emotional Competencies

Author(s): Michelle Garcia Winner, MA, CCC-SLP and Pamela Crooke, PhD, CCC-SLP

When combined, informal dynamic assessment tasks, learning how the social world works, and teaching students metacognitively based lessons within the Social Thinking Methodology create a powerful paradigm for understanding how to support and provide treatment for individuals with social learning differences across time.

Read More

Five Ways to Become Closer with Social Distancing

Author(s): Michelle Garcia Winner, MA, CCC-SLP and Pamela Crooke, PhD, CCC-SLP

Times of stress and hardship can drive us apart—but they often can also bring us together in positive ways we never imagined. The “social distancing” now required by the COVID-19 pandemic can actually foster better real-time communication and forge stronger, supportive relationships through flexible thinking, mindfulness, and socially smart technologies. Here are five ways to overcome the spiral of negative thinking, take control of what you can control, and positively contribute to the social emotional well-being of your community, as well as your own.

Read More

Help a Child Get Social Learning Services in an IEP Meeting

Author(s): Michelle Garcia Winner, MA, CCC-SLP and Pamela Crooke, PhD, CCC-SLP

Often students do not qualify for special services because a summary report states there is “no educational need” based on academic test scores and grades—even though it’s clear to everyone that these students are struggling to understand how the social and organizational world works and how to navigate within it. How do we define what it means to have educational need? Discover a strategy that uses school mission statements to define what a public education is to better understand whether students have special educational needs—and ultimately—to help prepare them for college and career readiness.

Read More

Aha! Teaching Moments: Social Anxiety and Talking in Class

Author(s): Michelle Garcia Winner, MA, CCC-SLP

We learn so much from our clients—and we want to share it with you. In this free “Aha! Teaching Moments” video, Social Thinking founder Michelle Garcia Winner shares what she learned when helping a client with social anxiety talk more in class—and the other factors she discovered that likely make the social anxiety more profound.

Read More

Three Ways to Advocate for Students Who Appear Persistently “Checked Out”

Author(s): Michelle Garcia Winner, MA, CCC-SLP and Pamela Crooke, PhD, CCC-SLP

When a student of any age exhibits a persistent pattern of disengagement (social or otherwise), shows confusion, and seems to “check out” during routine classroom instruction and activities or group activities, it may be that they are struggling to figure out how the social world works and how to work in the social world—even if they have academic strengths. This article discusses the signs that teachers should be aware of related to students who may face social learning and executive functioning differences and/or challenges. We also outline three ways to advocate and build supportive environments and teams.

Read More

5 Teaching Ideas Connected to Pixar's Movie Inside Out

Author(s): Michelle Garcia Winner, MA, CCC-SLP

Disney Pixar’s Inside Out gave creative attention to the feelings inside all of us. However, Riley, the protagonist, did a poor job of communicating and regulating her feelings – which led to trouble. To learn from Riley’s mistakes, here are five lessons for teaching kids to identify, communicate, and regulate their feelings.

Read More

9 Tips for Talking to Parents About Their Child’s Social Challenges

Author(s): Michelle Garcia Winner, MA, CCC-SLP

Teachers frequently ask: “How can I talk to parents about my observations of their child’s social challenges?” Michelle Garcia Winner provides nine tips to help professionals and parents engage with each other about social issues in an open, positive, and collaborative way.

Read More

10 DOs and DON'Ts for Teaching Superflex

Author(s): Pamela Crooke, PhD, CCC-SLP, and Michelle Garcia Winner, MA CCC-SLP

Superflex® has become super-popular! We have enjoyed hearing from so many people around the world about their love of Superflex and the Team of UnthinkaBots and Thinkables and the positive effect the Superflex curriculum has on helping individuals become better social thinkers and social problem solvers!

Read More

10 Levels to Living Independently

Author(s): Michelle Garcia Winner, MA, CCC-SLP, and Pamela Crooke, PhD, CCC-SLP

For many, living independently and flexibly responding to daily demands doesn’t just happen without support. We’ve developed a visual strategy based framework called the 10 Levels to Living Independently to help kids and young adults practice 10 essential independence skills before they venture out on their own.

Read More

10 Truths & Tips for Making and Keeping Friends

Author(s): Michelle Garcia Winner, MA, CCC-SLP and Pamela Crooke, PhD, CCC-SLP

Making friends is a desired but complex social emotional learning journey. The ability to forge new friendships and maintain older friendships provides us with an understanding of relationships and practice needed to be part of a class, work effectively as a collaborative member of a team or group, and simply feel included wherever we may be. In adulthood, this same set of concepts and skills will help us become part of a community, hold a job, and possibly nurture families of our own. The authors identify 10 factors for making and keeping friends and provide a list of practical resources.

Read More

14 Tips to Help All Kids Learn to Manage Anxiety

Author(s): Michelle Garcia Winner, MA, CCC-SLP and Pamela Crooke, PhD, CCC-SLP

We help our kids learn math, science, history, and how to prepare for things like tests and fire drills—but for some reason, we don’t proactively teach them strategies to manage the anxieties that are an inevitable part of life. In this article, learn practical tips to help all students recognize and manage their anxieties.

Read More

MailfbInstagramtwitterpinterestLinkedIn
View Cart Cart Items

Your Shopping Cart

Your Savings

Order Subtotal

Keep Browsing View Cart