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This presentation will empower participants to help individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder learn to navigate the social world by working on & understanding the thinking behind social skills at home, at school & in the community. Based on Michelle Garcia Winner’s Social Thinking® framework and rooted in cognitive behavioral therapy, Sherry will provide an overview and highlight selected social thinking tools and strategies to assist those with social cognitive and emotional regulation challenges understand the unwritten rules of social communication, perspective taking & becoming more flexible in social situations.

Sherry Mergner, MSW, LCSW is a Clinical Assistant Professor and the AHEC Liaison at UNC-CH, School of Social Work, where she coordinates continuing education programs for mental health, substance abuse and developmental disability professionals. She is also clinical social work faculty for the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disorders (LEND) grant at the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities, where she recruits social workers for this specialized training in Developmental Disabilities. At CIDD, Sherry provides clinical services to individuals with ASD and I/DD as well as their families. Sherry has co-lead a modified DBT group called “Chill Skills” for clients with I/DD for the last four years. Her passion is working with individuals who have emotional regulation and social cognitive challenges. Sherry completed Michelle Garcia Winner’s Advanced Clinical Training in San Jose, California in March, 2016. From 2010-13, Sherry served as the Project Coordinator for an Autism Masters Training Grant through UNC-CH, School of Medicine, Department of Allied Health Services. The purpose of this training grant was to educate occupational therapy, speech, and language pathology master-level students on Autism Spectrum Disorders. Sherry received her MSW from Florida State University in 1987 and has worked in a variety of clinical and educational settings for the past 32 years. She is the proud mother of Noah, 20, with High Functioning Autism and Nathan, 18 who is typically developing. Sherry has served as a Mother’s Mentor for UNC-CH, TEACCH and was on the board of the Orange/Chatham Chapter of the Autism Society of NC from 2005-2007. She is very active in her community promoting autism and disability awareness and education

Learning Objectives
At the conclusion of this workshop, participants will be able to:
1. Explain the emotional regulation and social cognitive challenges faced by individuals with ASD and related disorders;
2. Describe the origins of social cognitive challenges in individuals with ASD and how these can affect behavior, relationships and academics;
3. Summarize selected evidence-based emotional regulation and social cognitive intervention strategies that can be taught to individuals with ASD to help improve behavior and flexibility throughout their day.


  • Baker, K.E. (2012). Detectives and superheroes: A pilot study teaching flexible thinking in social situations to a child with high functioning autism. Brock University Repository. Retrieved from
  • Bolton, J.B., (2010). Examining the effectiveness of a social learning curriculum for improving social skills and self-regulation behaviors in middle school boys with autism spectrum disorder. PCOM Psychology dissertations. Paper 14. Retrieved from
  • Buron, K. D. (2007). A 5 is against the law!: Social boundaries: Straight up! Shawnee Mission,Kan.: Autism Asperger Pub.
  • Law, B. M. (2014). Beyond MeMind blindness, or difficulty seeing another person’s perspective, underpins much of the social difficulty of autism interventions that open children’s eyes to others’ points of view show promise for improving their social functioning. The ASHA Leader, 19(4), 40-47.

UNC Chapel Hill – Family Focus and Disability Lecture Series Programs 

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