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Training for success

Last Modified: 11/30/2020

Social thinking training

As children, social communication skills seem to come naturally, ranging from making friends to engaging in academic activities. However, children with social pragmatic difficulty or a diagnosis of an Autism Spectrum Disorder do not instinctively have these skills.

Social communication, or pragmatics, is the way in which children use language within social situations. Pragmatics is important to build social relationships with other people or even academically, as most curriculums rely on working in groups and communication between peers.

“The social pragmatic skills are the bases of language skills, cognitive skills and life skills in general,” Sara Mowery, MA, CCC-SLP, outpatient speech language pathologist, Parkview Pediatric Rehabilitation Clinic, said.

For six years, Sara worked with Cindy Barger, MS, CCC-SLP, also an outpatient speech language pathologist with the Parkview Pediatric Rehabilitation Clinic. Cindy closely studied social thinking education and cognitive linguistic skills. Together, the pair achieved many things, including the implementation of an infant feeding program. In 2019, they determined social pragmatics would be their next challenge.

Both have a strong passion for their careers and enjoy learning new things. With that passion and drive, Cindy and Sara discovered an opportunity for a continuing education class on social pragmatics – known as the Social Thinking Program. Unfortunately, the cost of the training was more than they’d anticipated. Knowing donors to the Parkview Foundation help provide continuing education for Parkview Health co-workers, and after speaking with their supervisor, Cindy suggested they submit a fund request to the Foundation.

Sara wholeheartedly agreed. “As a Parkview employee, it is my goal to provide excellent care, so therefore I need ongoing education to provide this excellent care. These programs help me better assess, understand and treat my clients who have difficulties with social languages,” she said. With that in mind, Sara and Cindy made the request, received the funding they required and began their journey with the social pragmatics curriculum.  

The 30 hours of training modules addressed age ranges beginning at preschool and continuing up to adulthood. The modules focused on social language, competencies, executive functioning, anxiety, emotions and helping teens transition to adulthood. Currently, the Parkview Pediatric Rehabilitation Clinic focuses on treating patients in the preschool to the teenage range but hope to expand someday and treat patients in adulthood.

Sara further explains that a lack of social pragmatics can lead to depression and anxiety within some individuals. For this reason, social pragmatic problems need to be better understood to help those struggling feel more comfortable with themselves and, in turn, result in improved mental health for those already grappling with their social skills.

“This education has shown me how important it is to teach children about social language. I feel I can better equip parents of patients to help their children develop the social pragmatic skills needed for school, at home and in the community.” Sara said. “I will also be able to mentor my colleagues about social pragmatic language and it is the mentoring that will help to impact clients other than mine. Without the foundation and its donors, I wouldn’t have been able to do all of that.”

The training program allowed Sara and Cindy to benefit while also giving them the tools to provide the resources children with cognitive linguistic delays desperately needed, thanks, in large part, to the generosity of Parkview Foundation donors. To learn more or to give a gift of healing and generosity, please visit ParkviewFoundations.org.

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