Social learning refers to the process of observational learning, often internalizing social norms. For neurotypical children, social learning usually happens intuitively, without the need for explicit instruction. For children and teens with autism, social learning is something they really struggle with. In part this is because social learning takes place in a context of attention. People with ASD are often deep in their own minds and thoughts and have a hard time paying attention to what others are doing. Reading emotions is also a big struggle for people with ASD. These struggles contribute to feelings of social awkwardness.
With an attentive teacher, children and teens with autism can learn social norms through explicit instruction. Face Value Comics hopes to be part of the process of social learning, too. By using the Ekman theory of expression, we are aiming to give autistic teens tools to read other people and understand the subtle cues of social contexts.
By giving our autistic hero Michael a group of friends, we are also modeling social learning in a way that is easier for an autistic teen to internalize. While we can’t go back to social situations in real life and “replay” them, we can always re-read a comic book. Each re-reading reinforces the concepts of empathy, reading emotions, and learning social norms. We hope to be part of many teens’ process of social learning and overcoming social awkwardness.