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Creating VISUAL Friend Files to Enhance Social Experiences

Michelle Garcia Winner, the guru of Social Thinking, has developed practical assessments and intervention strategies for the treatment of social thinking challenges. One such intervention is the "FRIEND FILE", which is utilized to enhance social interactions, shared interests and conversations. Through implementing the Friend File approach, my clients learn a specific schema to follow when meeting new people and developing friendships. Jill Kuzma has created two Friend File Worksheets to further support Michelle Garcia Winner's concept. Click here (1) and Click here (2) to view Kuzma's work.

While many of my clients have been successful in developing and growing their Friend Files, I have found that the task can be more challenging for a specific cohort. This task requires a strong working memory to retain the new information gleaned from the initial and follow-up interactions, so that it can then be stored in long term memory for subsequent retrieval. When working memory is impaired, these clients are unable to complete the schema; the information from the conversations quickly disappears and they are unable to generate a mental image from text. It was evident that this cohort required an additional step in the process to facilitate and support their working memory.

As I have mentioned in previous blogs, I am an advocate of integrating the Pic Collage App in my therapy sessions. Therefore, it made perfect sense to apply the app with this Friend File intervention. Pic Collage allows these clients to uniquely organize and personalize the information in their files so that it is associated with an actual image, thereby enhancing recall ability. Additionally, I have found that through this conscious visualizing activity, my clients have also benefited from the following:

  • Improved metacognitive skills (i.e., knowledge that their learning process requires active visualization)

  • The application of the following Executive Function skills:

1. Planning: what is needed to complete the task (i.e., current and future

information, material and tools)

2. Organizing: how will the information be arranged on the collage (i.e.,

collage format, background screen, font, colors, picture and text

placement and headings)

3. Problem-solving: what pictures linked to the text should be selected to

yield the greatest opportunity for recall

  • Expansion of social thinking skills with the spontaneous utilization and sharing of their Pic Collage Friend Files with their peers, family members and teachers.

Click here for an example of a client's developing visual Friend File.

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