Founder Keri Schoenbrun and our Director of Program Development, Daphne Papageorge, were selected to speak at the 9th annual Social Thinking® Global Providers’ Conference in June in San Francisco. The presentation, “Books on a Shelf v. Real Culture Change: Using Partnership to Infuse Social Learning into School-Wide Systems” explained how one school in Loudoun County has implemented social learning into the school’s culture. It also detailed how social development can be integrated into the school day from the perspective of administrators, teachers, specialists, parents and students. Our team discussed various parts of the Developmental Connections’ story and vision.
Getting Started in the School System
Developmental Connections has recognized that some public schools are not equipped to meet the social needs of students and that often they do not know the best way to do so. With budget and time limitations, schools don’t know where to start.
Our team has applied a “bottom-up” approach to social development over our years as an organization. We started small from one after-school program to naturally finding a path to integrate Social Thinking® by Michelle Garcia Winner and other best-in-class social curricula into school culture.
Our approach evolved over time by asking these questions and finding answers:
2010: Should we support the social needs of one particular student?
2011: How can we support the social needs of one child given the constraints of the school day?
2012: (Pilot After-School Program) Can we help others and do a better job by looking beyond the constraints of the typical school day?
2013-present: Can we drive culture change on a large scale by supporting students with social differences while educating those around them?
Nurturing Culture Change School-Wide
We have found the following outlets have shaped the success of social learning on a school-wide scale:
- Administrators’ support
- Mini lessons in the classroom
- Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) Integration
- Engaging specialists who work with the majority of students
- Parent information sessions
With administration support, we can set a tone of inclusivity throughout the school and the positive effects of learning social skills for everyone. This also encourages parent involvement, so they can know how to best support their students’ social development. We have found that classroom teachers can use the social curricula during short (usually 10 minutes) mini lessons daily or multiple times a week. Instead of thinking of this as another to-do, teachers use these tools to create a positive classroom environment. In addition to classroom teachers, specialists play a role in establishing an socially inclusive culture. They see the entire school, mostly every student, and as such, they can reinforce vocabulary and concepts from Social Thinking® to yield better results for students.
Together, we are passionate about sharing these opportunities for schools to make successful movements towards social development for their students.
We are thankful for this opportunity to share our story and learn from other Social Thinking® professionals!