Social Learning

What is Social Learning? “Solving the Social Puzzle”

Navigating and understanding the social world can be a complex puzzle to solve. In order to be successful socially, an understanding of other people’s thoughts and feelings, non verbal language and verbal language are needed in multiple contexts. Sometimes, because of a social learning challenge, these skills are underdeveloped and need to be taught and nurtured. Since social interactions are complex, teaching social cognition takes time; however, with direct explicit instruction and support these skills can be learned.

Social Learning is:

  • A cognitive-behavioral approach to help individuals with social learning challenges. It is based on the work of Michelle Garcia Winner, SLP, MA-CCC. For more information visit
  • Different than teaching “Social Skills” because it teaches students how to think in social situations before understanding how to respond accordingly.
  • A cognitive approach that most of us learn intuitively.

Basic Concepts:

  • Social success depends on having a “flexible brain.” This is the ability to change one’s thoughts in order to problem solve, consider other’s perspectives, or to adapt to a change in the social context.
  • The way we act is affected by what we think of others or what others are thinking about us.
  • We must be able to take the perspectives of others in order to have successful social relationships.

We are always thinking about others, whether we are talking to them at any given moment, or not. We think of others when we read a book, watch TV, ride in an elevator, write a paper for school, or have a conversation.
We use our “eyes to think” in order to gather information from our social environment. We need to pay attention to both obvious and subtle cues when interacting with others.

How does a Social Learning challenge affect academics?
People with a social learning challenge often struggle with organization, time management, abstract thinking, and others skills related to academic functioning. A social learning challenge is directly related to academic performance.
In an academic setting, individuals with social learning challenges often have struggles with:

  • problem solving
  • abstract thinking
  • reading comprehension
  • written expression
  • imaginary and pretend play
  • getting along with teachers and peers
  • working as a part of a group
  • organizational skills or skills related to executive functioning