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Social Communication Skills

Social Communication Difficulties:

Social Communication and Interaction Difficulties What are they? 

  • Children and Young People with social communication and interaction difficulties have problems understanding what other people mean. 
  • Communication is not just the words we use; but how we use our body language, facial expression and tone of voice to communicate with someone else. 
  • Children with these difficulties may find it hard to understand the messages we give to each other without speaking, such as 
    • the meaning we put into our voice, 
    • the expressions on our faces, and 
    • gestures such as waving, pointing or shrugging
  • Eye contact is another important part of non-speaking communication, and most of us do this without thinking about it. 
  • Children with social communication difficulties may not know instinctively how and when to give eye contact. 
  • Children with social communication and interaction difficulties can also have trouble in understanding what other people are thinking or feeling; finding it difficult to see things from someone else’s point of view. 
  • They may do things which seem out of place; such as 
    • talking in a very loud voice to the person who is standing next to them, 
    • talking continually about things that interest them to someone they have never met before, and 
    • taking turns can be challenging. 

This can often make it hard to make or keep friends and join in games.

Autistic Spectrum Disorder and Conditions (ASD/ASC) 

Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder/Conditions have difficulties in three main areas: 

Communication and language: 

    • difficulties with social use of language 
    • cannot start or keep conversations going 
    • inappropriate facial expressions and body language 
    • literal interpretation of speech 
    • not understanding jokes and sarcasm 
    • limited or unusual pretend play 
    • unusual or repetitive language 
    • speech difficulties. 

Social and emotional understanding: 

    • lack of awareness of others’ feelings 
    • lack of empathy 
    • absent or unusual eye-contact, gestures and expressions 
    • difficulties with friendships 
    • difficulty working with others
    •  does not spontaneously share interest and enjoyment with others 
    • if distressed does not seek comfort. 

Flexibility of thought and behaviour: 

  • dislikes change 
  • difficulty with problem solving 
  • likes rigid routines 
  • obsession with particular objects or subjects 
  • restricted range of interests 
  • unusual or repetitive gestures or actions. 


How do we support pupils with disordered or under-developed social communication skills at The Wherry School?

At our school we use a number of well-known and well-regarded strategies and programmes to support pupils, in our day-to=day interactions with the pupils and also in timetabled discrete teaching sessions where the focus and objectives are related to the development of social communication skills and understanding.

There are many useful strategies that we use with children who have social communication difficulties in all areas and at all ages and stages of the school. Children with social communication difficulties can often learn the rules of appropriate behaviour for social situations. Understanding the nature of the difficulties is important for families and nursery or school staff, so they can understand why a child behaves in a certain way and which strategies are likely to be helpful.

  • social stories
  • comic strips
  • visual symbols
  • photographs and film stories and prompts 
  • scripts and scripted responses

Talkabout Programme: Alex Kelly

Talkabout is a series of social communication programmes and approaches that staff use across the whole school.  Speech, Language and Communication skills are supported by the School Speech and Language Therapist and also team members from the commissioned ASD specialist support team at Respectrum.  Talkabout is a practical resource which is aimed at improving Social Communication Skills such as;

  • Listening
  • Conversational Skills
  • Body Language
  • Awareness
  • Assertiveness

The following programmes are used by staff, including ASD and speech therapy professionals to provide a consistent taught programme for pupils;

  1. Talkabout; A Social Communication Programme
  2. Talkabout Activities
  3. Talkabout for Teenagers

For more information about the structure of the Talkabout Programme please follow this link to understand the school approach to delivering the programme:  

For further information about Talkabout please see: http://alexkelly.biz/