Social learning challenges do not only reveal themselves during social interactions, but instead they are present during many academic tasks that require highly flexible abstract thinking such as written expressions, reading comprehension of literature, organization and planning of assignments, and some students have tremendous difficulty learning math skills. Thus persons with significant difficulties relating to others interpersonally often have related academic struggles in the classroom particularly as they get older. Typically, we start to require more creative thinking, flexibility and organizational skills to succeed in the classroom starting in 3rd/4th grade. Some students begin to show struggles at that time, while others students manage to hold it together until middle school.
Social learning and thinking about others:
Thinking about others and making smart guesses as to the intentions of others are all a part of social inferencing. Students with social learning impairments often demonstrate impairment in their ability to 1.) Collect relevant information by reading body language, facial expression, tone etc. 2.) Accurately interpret information gathered by considering context, prior knowledge, and knowledge of social rules. 3.) appropriately adjust ones behavior and respond adaptively in order to give others good thoughts about them.
Social learning and thinking about self:
Stress and anxiety can play a significant role in triggering unwanted behavior and yet direct teaching of relaxation is rarely seen in behavior plans, IEP’s, or therapies. Think Social East Bay devotes 15 minutes of each session to learning calming strategies by engaging in yoga practice. A licensed yoga instructor conducts yoga.
Executive Functioning tasks:
Brainstorming, prioritizing, problem solving, negotiating, and conceptualizing are all part of EF. At Think Social East Bay we work on these skills in functional, real life situations such as planning outings for the group or working on group projects. The group members are responsible for planning outings while considering the opinions of others in the group, managing time, transportation, and money. Our older members (upper elementary, middle school, high school) are also responsible for social networking outside of the therapy room by calling each other to coordinate outings or to remind each other about upcoming events. Students learn to set up their own social networks. These students are too old for parents to continue setting up their play dates.
Motivation and Self Esteem:
The students are provided the opportunity to make their own choices-and experience how those choices play out. In many cases, recognizing and correcting mistakes, while learning that not every mistake spells disaster, and learning to place different levels of importance to different errors. A highly motivating aspect to the group process is the concrete and visual end product of our work, that being the outing itself. Self-esteem is built little by little through each achievement and students learn to make the connection between work and end product.
Social Learning and Adulthood
In adulthood, social learning challenges are ever present in college, the workplace and in social relationships. Society is geared toward independence in both social and organizational functioning, with little to no support for those who are unable to navigate independently. Consequently, adults with social cognitive deficits are often plagued with mental health issues like anxiety and depression, leading to problems maintaining a job and developing and sustaining relationships in and outside their families.
For more information including articles, published research, and core concepts related to social learning please refer to www.socialthinking.com.