December 14, 2012

EDISON ACADEMY PILOTS SOCIAL THINKING CURRICULUM

Posted in REA News at 7:23 pm by ranchoencinitasacademy

Students receive instruction and tools to improve their daily social skills through a program developed by Michelle Garcia Winner, founder of the Social Thinking Center in San Jose, CA

paul chris dolly

L-R: Paul Wulle, director, Chris Lotierzo, Speech & Language Pathologist, Dolly Peponides, director

Fifth and sixth grade students at Edison Academy are learning about the nuances of social interactions that are often taken for granted including appropriate eye contact, interpreting non-verbal cues and understanding the meaning of empathy or how others feel.  Christine Lotierzo, MA/CCC/SLP, a board certified speech and language pathologist who received extensive training through the Social Thinking Clinical Training Program developed by Michelle Garcia Winner, visits the classroom once a week to help students with a broad range of social and communication challenges.

Social skills, which begin to develop during infancy, are an intuitive process of learning how to interact with people.  As we develop our sense of communication by observation and acquiring social information, we learn to act appropriately in a variety of social situations.  However, for many children, this process is anything but natural, not to mention overlooked as a key component to their overall development. Consequently, individuals may develop social anxiety, low self-esteem or simply a general discomfort about social situations such as walking onto a playground or how to socialize at a party.  However, a recent report published in The Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, supports the notion that methodologies specifically addressing deficits in the social thinking process can be taught in the classroom so that students who already possess average or above-average intelligence can successfully learn to interact on an appropriate social level.

“These skills can be taught,” says Ms. Lotierzo who points out that kids who are lacking in social skills are often picked on, excluded or get in trouble without understanding what they did.  “I have seen kids go through the program and do a complete turn-around.  This is an important curriculum to be included in the school day and best to implement when students are young so they don’t give up.  It’s not a behavioral program, it’s a social program.” she adds.

Although Social Thinking is a global program, Edison Academy is one of the few schools piloting the curriculum in the North County San Diego area.  According to Ms. Lotierzo, any child can benefit from the program.  “Many children who experience social deficits have ADHD or Asperger’s syndrome, but you don’t need a diagnosis to take advantage of the program,” she says.

lotierzo group

Chris Lotierzo presents Social Thinking at a recent Parent Night at Rancho Encinitas Academy. Ms. Lotierzo visits the fifth and sixth grade Edison Academy classroom once a week.

Families were presented with details of the Social Thinking program at a recent Edison Academy Parent Night.  “It is extremely important to the success and well being of our children to have the ability to understand and interact with each other,” says Jim Solowiej, whose third-grade daughter Katie attends Edison Academy’s sister school, Rancho Encinitas Academy.  “Verbal and nonverbal communication in the classroom has a significant impact on how our children learn and feel about themselves,” he adds.

Edison Academy teacher, Meg Burton, a doctoral candidate in Educational Leadership, is thrilled with the program.  “Our students have quickly grown fond of the Social Thinking program.  They find it to be a comfortable atmosphere to share their thoughts and experiences. Chris Lotierzo is very effective with providing them practical strategies that the students can easily implement.”

About Edison Academy

Edison Academy was founded in 1990.  Housed on the campus of Rancho Encinitas Academy, the school is designed to meet the needs of bright children in grades 3 through 8 who have mild to moderate learning challenges. Students are taught methods and strategies that assist them in becoming mainstream, independent learners.  For more information call (760) 942-2011 or visit http://www.edisonacademy.com.      

About Christine Lotierzo, MA/CCC/SLP

 Christine Lotierzo, MA/CCC/SLP, is a board certified speech and language pathologist. She is currently licensed by the State of California, and board certified by the American Speech/Language/Hearing Association and California Speech/Language Hearing Association.  Christine specializes in assessment, diagnosis and treatment of a variety of communication disorders.  For more information visit www.encinitasspeechtherapy.com.

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