Helping Teens with Autism with Social Learning

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.

Autism Labels As a Tool for Understanding

Many people receive autism labels these days.  Sometimes people are diagnosed with autism when they are young children.  Other people struggle into adulthood until their challenges are given the autism label.  This labeling can be helpful for some to get professional support and education.  Different labels can help us understand aspects of ourselves and our loved ones, and help us empower ourselves to address our unique challenges.
At Face Value Comics, we’ve dedicated ourselves to helping society understand those given Autism Labels: children, teens and adults everywhere who are challenged with Autism Spectrum Disorders, or ASD. At the same time, we want to give people with ASD tools to help them navigate the neurotypical world.
One thing that people with ASD struggle with is recognizing what others’ facial expressions mean.  In our stories we use the theories of Dr. Paul Ekman and his Facial Action Coding System (FACS) to illustrate different emotions.  Because a comic is a static image, people can study the face as long as necessary to decode the emotional signals.  The words appear in speech bubbles and captions help place the scene in context.
More than anything, we hope that Face Value Comics will give useful autism expressions, both to help people with ASD understand the emotions of others, and to give a positive and affirming view of people with ASD to a neurotypical world.  An autism diagnosis isn’t the last word on a person.  Autism labels should just be a tool for understanding.  We hope that we can further this understanding with our stories of Michael, his friends, and The Zephyr!