& Professionals

How to help young people with Social Communication Difficulties 


The following social communication skills are needed in order to communicate effectively:

  • Appropriate eye contact
  • Listening
  • Use and understanding of non-verbal communication e.g. tone of voice, facial expression, gesture, body posture
  • Ability to understand the speaker’s meaning
  • Ability to express appropriate ideas in the situation
  • Ability to start a conversation
  • Ability to repair a conversation, ask for clarification, give further information if needed, repeat or simplify if needed
  • Awareness of listeners’ feelings and the impact communication has on others
  • Flexibility in using and adapting language to the context
  • Ability to close a conversation


How to support...

Difficulty organising and expressing ideas

Useful strategies:

  • The adult could repeat back to the students aspects of his explanation
  • Encourage the student to repeat the information
  • Give suggestions as to how he can help himself be understood


May not use appropriate volume, pitch, stress and accent when speaking

Useful strategies:

  • Explore volume, pitch and stress through listening and playing music.
  • Role play using different tone of voice and identify speaker’s emotion.


Difficulty discussing abstract topics and topics outside his personal experience

Useful strategies:

  • Make note of topics the student is familiar with and explore other related topics.
  • Help the student gain visual information by using illustrated books, brochures, and even TV and film clips


Difficulty changing language to suit the situation

Useful strategies:

  • Talk about/role play different styles of communication in different situations.
  • Point out good examples as you observe them in real situations or use TV clips or role play.


May not be aware of the impact of what he says to others

Useful strategies:

  • Use real situations and explain the impact that something someone says has on other people.
  • Consider using Comic Strip Conversations, which is a particular approach to help analyse one’s own and other’s thoughts and feelings in a given situation.


May not alter language depending on the listener’s knowledge and interests

Useful strategies:

  • Discuss real situations and point out that he didn’t give the listener enough information or talked about something that the listener wasn’t interested in.
  • Practise talking about different topics so he has more confidence when conversing with others.


May not use appropriate vocabulary to explain how they/ another person feels

Useful strategies

  • See strategy sheet on ‘How to help pupils with emotional literacy difficulties’.


Difficulty understanding jokes and sarcasm

Useful strategies:

  • Raise the student’s awareness of non-literal language by exploring examples as they arise.
  • Introduce humorous books and poems.
  • Alert staff to the frequency of the use of non-literal language in the classroom and the difficulties it can cause for some pupils.


May not use appropriate eye-contact

Useful strategies:

  • Play games like ‘Wink Murder’ and draw pictures of each other’s faces in detail.  Note use of eye contact in videos and role play.  Discuss its importance


Difficulty listening to another person talking

Useful strategies:

  • Explain the value of listening, and the components of good listening e.g.looking at the speaker, not interrupting. Provide visual prompts for these.
  • Practice good listening and attention skills e.g. through playing Barrier Games.
  • Role play good versus poor listening skills and discuss consequences of both


Difficulty initiating a conversation appropriately without interrupting and closing a conversation

Useful strategies

  • Do role plays which provide opportunities to practise the skill within a relaxed environment. Model what to say.


Difficulty taking turns during a conversation

Useful strategies:

  • Discuss rules of conversational turn-taking e.g. good eye-contact, don’t change the subject, don’t interrupt.  Practice and give specific feedback e.g.’good point, but you have changed the subject from x to y’.


Further information can be found in Secondary Language Builders - Advice and activities to encourage the communication skills of 11-16 year olds available from

Local Initiatives

Early Years Initiatives

Our Early years team are currently working together with the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities, this includes a rollout of language screening of children using the Wellcomm tool.

School Age Initiatives

We currently offer a range of virtual training sessions to schools for free! SENCo's will have been informed of training dates that you can book your staff on to. Please contact Fiona Taylor ( or your Link SLT if you have any questions about this. 


 Enhanced Services initiatives

The Enhanced Speech and Language Therapy (SALT) Service offer bought-in input in schools. This might involve universal input, individual or group interventions. The Enhanced Team also support schools and staff to develop communication friendly environments and deliver training. For further information, please contact Fiona Taylor –


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School staff

Lorna is amazing to work with and has made such an impact on our school provision, we are lucky to have her!

School SENCo

My child absolutely LOVES coming to see you, you are so good with him. We are extremely grateful for all of your care and support. He is counting down the days until we can come again.


We loved our sessions with Lucie, we found her to be positive and encouraging, we have already seen a huge improvement in his communication, using words and attempting new words to communicate with us in everyday tasks and his confidence in learning new words has shot up, he’s attempting 2 word phrases pretty well and even attempted 3 words on a couple of occasions. The difference for us is huge and we feel Lucie has set us up to keep improving now that the sessions are over.


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Early Years Teacher

I have just attended the virtual open evening and I thought it was a really nice way to explain the role and introduce the team as opposed to reading it on a job ad. I felt very lucky to have seen many of the benefits Fiona spoke about too so thank you for providing me with the opportunity to sit in on the training sessions.

Speech and Language Therapy Student

I am new to the role and I have found all members of the team extremely helpful and have gone out of their way to support me.

School SENCo

This is great and I am so appreciative of your support. We have nothing but fantastic things to say about the Salford SALT team and the support that you have given to both of our children.