I was very fortunate, in some of my recent internet research, to come across a website for Michelle Garcia Winner, one of the pioneers in cutting edge solutions for helping those on the spectrum better communicate within an NT context.
This post will summarize some of the foundational concepts behind her social thinking approach.
1. Most neurotypical children are 'hard wired' since birth to engage in social thinking, much like walking.
2. Early on, neurotypical children engage in 'joint attention.' This means that they intuitively look at the other person's eyes to figure out what they are thinking, and to know how to respond. With this skill, they are able to cooperate, share their imaginations with others, and work in groups.
3. Children engage in play with their peers in preschool. Play gives kids the skill base to sit and learn in a classroom.
4. Kids on the spectrum who have average language skills do not intuitively learn social information or social thinking in the same way that neurotypical children do. However, they can be they can be cognitively taught how to think socially and understand the use of related social skills.
These children can learn a frame of reference for social decoding and learning, much in the way you and I would need to learn a language if we travelled to a foreign country to live for a long period of time.