Michelle Garcia Winner, MA, CCC-SLP, specializes in the treatment of individuals with social-cognitive deficits: those with diagnoses such as high-functioning autism, Asperger Syndrome and nonverbal learning disorder. She began teaching Social Thinking® in 1995 to brighter students when she went to work for a high school district as the district’s speech language pathologist. Social Thinking was born out of necessity as a way to reach those “bright but socially clueless students” that needed more information than just what social skill to use. They needed to know why they should bother to use that skill.
Michelle entered into private practice in 1998 (part-time) and then full time in 1999 due to community demand. Both parents and school districts wanted her to work with their students.
Her clinical services continued to evolve and expand and Michelle to the point where her staff saw over 250 children (preschool through adults) in 2008 for weekly therapy sessions. Simultaneously she also began a company called Think Social Publishing to handle the growing demands of speaking internationally as well as publishing her own books and an increasing range of books by authors innovating and expanding upon the practice of Social Thinking and related treament strategies. More recently, Michelle's Social Thinking Center, now located at 3031 Tisch Way in San Jose, has focused even more on developing new products, workshops and conferences and the training of professionals who come to the clinic from around the world. Yet, even with their busy schedules speaking and writing, Michelle, Pam Crooke and Stephanie Madrigal - the therapists at the clinic - continue to treat individuals.
The heart of Michelle’s work is illuminating the often elusive and intangible world of Social Thinking, and developing practical strategies that can be easily used by parents, educators and service providers, across different environments, to teach the Social Thinking required for the development of real social skills. Teaching "social skills" is not enough - individuals with social-cognitive challenges must learn the why and the how of their own and others' abilities to process social information - a capacity that for must of us is intuitive, but for individuals with HFA, Asperger's, ADHD and many undiagnosed individuals has to be taught explicitly. The strength of Michelle's work is that she breaks down the research and abstract concepts and creates concrete ways for this to be done. This approach led GreatSchools.org, a leading national nonprofit organization, to call Michelle, "...the leading expert in the field of social skills."
Her work is being applied not only to persons with higher-functioning autism 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. Her goal is to raise awareness among administrators, educators and parents about the critical role that Social Thinking and related social skills play in every student’s life, not only in achieving academic success, but also for success in adulthood and life in general.
Michelle is internationally recognized as a thoughtful and prolific writer in the area of social thinking/social skills. She travels around the world speaking on a multitude of topics relating to social thinking, and repeatedly receives accolades for her educational, energetic and enthusiastic workshop presentations. She has been invited to train psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, parents, educators and government policy makers on the importance of Social Thinking.
Michelle has written several books on social learning disabilities and Social Thinking, and has released training videos/DVDs for educators and parents.
In 2008, she was received an award of "Special Congressional Recognition" for her pioneering work for students with high functioning autism, Asperger syndrome and similar social-communicative challenges.