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Woodstock, NY


Gifted Matters 4 Kids is New York State's premiere service for gifted and twice-exceptional learners, developed and provided by Dr. Susan Paynter of Woodstock, NY, child advocate, award-winning educator, and nationally recognized expert on gifted learners.


Social Thinking Friendship Groups

Where Social Thinking Meets Critical Thinking...

Explore and discover through open-ended challenges.

Build bridges, and skyscrapers; build listening skills, and friendships.

About the WorkshopS

In her Social Thinking Training workshops, Dr. Susan Paynter helps her students, ages seven through 17, develop critical thinking skills and a set of social skills that are practical and applied easily to daily interactions. Weekly one-hour sessions run for four weeks at a time, with four to eight children in each group. Two of the many groups now meeting — and still accepting new applications — are SASSY (Smart and Strong Sisters) and The Gentlemen's Club.

The Mission

To help children learn how to "think" socially and consider their own and others' thoughts, emotions, beliefs and intentions instead of memorizing their set of social rules. 

The Approach

Using a proprietary approach, Dr. Paynter helps young people gain social confidence by building on their cognitive strengths. Kids work collaboratively and depend on the talents of teammates to solve complex, thought-provoking and creative challenges while learning essential social thinking skills. 

The Benefits

Develop new Social Thinking skills and learn how to: 

  • Make and keep new friends
  • Speak so others will listen
  • Make eye contact
  • Read body language
  • Initiate and maintain conversation
  • Listen actively
  • Lead without being bossy
  • Share without bragging

Build your Critical Thinking skills and learn how to:

  • Think flexibly
  • Test assumptions
  • Analyze and synthesize information
  • Solve open-ended creative challenges 
  • Have fun and gain confidence
  • Explore perplexing problems and design original solutions

The Details

The Social Skills Training workshop is divided into three one-hour segments.

The first segment is dedicated to the relevant social skills, taught through role play and games. During this segment, students practice a variety of skills, including: speaking so others will listen, making eye contact, reading body language, initiating and maintaining conversation, making friends, listening actively, and leading peers without being perceived as bossy.

The second segment features an open-ended challenge that requires the students to use higher-order critical thinking. The students work in teams to solve creative, thought-provoking challenges, while using the targeted social skills practiced during the first segment of the workshop hour. Dr. Paynter observes the students' intellectual and creative ideas, in addition to the social interactions of the students, with particular attention to the skills targeted during the initial workshop hour.

The third segment of the workshop provides a debriefing and detailed discussion with students about the impact of the new skills on improving collaboration with fellow students. Students share their ideas on how their personal interactions influenced the success of their team.
Throughout the workshop, Dr. Paynter maintains email communication with parents to ensure carry over of the new skills to the home.

The Requirements

Students are clustered into groups of four to six members, based on age, gender, strengths, needs, diagnosis, and developmental level. Typical groups include students ages 7-8, 9-10, 12-15, and 15-17. The curriculum for students 12-17 is adjusted to facilitate greater opportunity to practice appropriate socialization and troubleshoot difficult scenarios, which may arise with peers and others.

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