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Social Thinking & Autism

Excerpts from Michelle Garcia Winner (Social Thinking & Autism Expert) talk given in SAPsv Dublin, CA Tuesday 2/10


This week I attended a talk given on the Dublin campus for Month of Inclusion week.  The speaker was Michelle Garcia Winner, owner of Social Thinking company.  As an expert on the topic of social thinking and autism, Michelle  speaks at numerous conferences to students, professionals and those with social thinking disabilities. I have a very good friend whose two children are both autistic.  I was interested to hear what Michelle had to say to share with my friend any information I could gather.   I was really touched by the discussion and the information presented.  Michelle talked about autism and the different ways that people with the autism spectrum disorder (ASD) process information also how they respond differently from someone with better social skills.  All of  the things she talked about could be applied to any human interaction which made this session relevant to everyone in attendance.


Here are some of the highlights on her talk that I wanted to share.


We expect adults without obvious social learning differences to use good social skills at work and in the community.   If someone does not understand good social skills people label them as “awkward, odd and rude”.   Our culture teaches us to exclude people when we judge their behaviors as different.  This is what makes it so hard for people in the spectrum to be accepted in normal work/life environments.  It is hard for them to find work, to interact and to be accepted.  People on the spectrum’s brains process social interactions differently.  We need to have an extra understanding of their behaviors and not judge them incorrectly for their responses.


We can help adults move forward by avoiding assumptions about an individual’s social learning abilities.   Give people explicit feedback if you find your interactions to be difficult.  A good opening would be “Would you mind if I give you some tips…..”.  At SAP we have the “autism at work” initiative.  In this program people will be given a mentor to help them work and process things in our corporate work environment.


A person’s ability in technical and scientific thinking does not always equate to social thinking. It is our social thinking, our tone of voice, our posture, our words, all the things that we use in our daily conversation that help us co-exist with our co-workers and managers, succeed in our jobs, develop social networks, support families, and maintain friends.


Work is more than just doing the task, it is about figuring out how to effectively get along. What all people want and need is:

  • Being comfortable
  • Acknowledgement
  • Inclusion

I encourage everyone to get involved with the Month of Inclusion events. The first step is continuing to invest time to educate yourself, to talk to others about the issues and to make your actions really show that you are willing and able to understand and co-exist together at work, in your home and in all your human relationships.  Live the message!!!  As Michelle tells us “we’re all a social work in progress.”

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