Social Learning

According to Dr. Taubman, “social learning is related to a child’s ability to learn from, and be influenced by his/her social environment”.

Some people might not consider social learning as an area of social skill, and many targets in this area are thought to be ‘learning-how-to-learn’ skills. However, social learning skills are part of the complex network of abilities that contribute to a person’s social success. Social learning skills typically involve:

  1. Direct acquisition of social skills from others through different avenues, such as:
    • Video modeling
    • Direct imitation
    • Learning from pictorial sources
  2. Indirect and accidental susceptibility to peer culture and social influence

Although social learning sounds like an advanced skill for individuals with autism, there are some basic and intermediate programs for young learners to begin with.


Basic Program – Imitation

Objectives: Increasing awareness of the environment and developing attending skills.

General Breakdown: Students will learn to imitate one-step and multiple-step actions in different contexts for instance play, song, and routine, with and without delay.

Side Notes: Some authors suggested that one of the biggest skill deficits in children with autism is their ability to learn observationally. Early observational learning programs such as ‘copy others’ and ‘do what others are doing’ are important building blocks for more advanced observational learning skills for instance obtaining new vocal and non-vocal information from observing others in the future.


Intermediate Program – Vicarious Learning

Objectives: Learning from the consequences that are experienced by the others, increasing social awareness and interest in others, enhancing reinforcement value of others, and developing ability to manage behavior in a more natural way.

General Breakdown: Teaching will involve a student engaging in appropriate behavior, and refraining from inappropriate behavior, based on consequences (positive or negative) that is experienced by others.

Side Notes: The proximity of others and immediacy of student’s response opportunity should be considered during the teaching. Gradually increasing them can make skills more generalizable and applicable in natural environment.


Social learning is a social skill and a way to learn in this social world. Creating moments where the student can use this technique in natural settings not only can enhance generalization, but also can make learning more meaningful and relevant, which in turn increases learning motivation.


To learn more ABA techniques and programs from AP, please study from our online resources platform:

APSPARKS Resource Website


Information provided by:

Teresa Ng (Autism Partnership Senior Case Supervisor)
Teresa Ng
Ms. Teresa Ng, a master degree holder in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) from St. Cloud State University and a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, joined AP in 2001. Over the past decade, she has received regular training from Dr. Ronald Leaf and Dr. John McEachin and acquired extensive experience in treating and developing treatment programs for young children and adolescents with ASD as both therapist and supervisor. Apart from providing parent training, staff training, consultation to local and oversea families in South Africa, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Mainland China, and conducting workshops in local preschools and non-profitable organizations, she has been responsible for overseeing Little Learners, a simulated kindergarten classroom using ABA approach. Currently, she is responsible for local and overseas consultation, case management, program design, and case supervision.

Ms. Teresa Ng’s related event:

Beijing – 3 Days Parent ABA Training Workshop *Conduct in Chinese
Date: 17-19, January, 2020 (Friday to Sunday)

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