& 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 Wellcomm tool.

School Age Initiatives

This is an area currently under development. There are a number of exciting developments to look forward to in the upcoming months in regards to how we work in schools.


 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 –


I have found working with the speech therapist very beneficial. She helps me to set achievable goals for the children by coming into the nursery and interacting with the children and getting to know them. She talks to us on a regular basis and updates us on what targets she would like the children to achieve next. She teaches us new strategies to use with the children which we find really useful, we try to incorporate this into everyday activities. Parent’s often comment on how much they appreciate the advice from our therapist. They also comment on how much progress their children have made since visiting her. We don’t know what we would do without her!

Anneka Williamson, Children’s Centre Practitioner

“It brought different activities to his usual routine which he enjoyed and encouraged him to participate”


“I have two children who are supported by the speech and language therapy service. The therapists have lots of patience with my children. Both Christipher and Marcus have come on a lot. Marcus now has lots more confidence and he talks much more in the classroom. Christipher isn’t as stressed anymore, his therapist has taught me exactly what to do. If I need any help, she is very easy to approach. Before I try new things with Christipher I can check with her first. The therapist knows him very well. She has worked wonders with him. Without her, I wouldn’t know what to do.”

Nicola, Mum of Christipher and Marcus

"My son Lewis has been attending speech and language for a few years. He has come on briliantly and is more confident. His speech is so much clearer now. He also enjoys the sessions. Jean gives me loads of ideas about how to continue helping him at home. He gets work sheets to take home which also he enjoys doing. Lewis has a short attention span and can find it difficult to concentrate for long, but Jean makes it very interesting for Lewis and different every session."

Tracy, Lewis

"I am Megan’s mum. Megan was identified as having speech and language difficulties when she was at primary school. Since this time she has been supported by the Education Inclusion Service Speech and Language team. This has made a huge difference to the development of Megan’s speech and language. Not only do they support Meg, they also support the staff at the school in delivering the programmes that Megan needs. The team are also there to answer any questions that I may have and will send us regular information on Megan’s target’s, what they are and if she has achieved them. Megan enjoys the sessions that she attends at school and they are delivered at times that try not to impact too greatly on her daily school life."

Hayley Robinson, Megan

EPs and SALT frequently work together during Multi agency meetings to Clarify individual concerns and strengths. We develop joint objectives, that are regularly reviewed And evaluated to improve outcomes for children and YP. Parents and teachers comment that this work is effective and helps to increase their Understanding and knowledge. Jointly we increase schools capacity, through conversations and training, to meet the needs of their pupils.

Joanne Snee- Educational Psychologist

“I couldn't be happier Grayson has come on so much in these 6 weeks. It has helped 100%. Thank you so much”

Parent of Grayson

“The service has been really helpful, the staff also been very kind and experienced. My child has learnt and developed some new communication skills and I also as the mom have known new ways to help my child through. Thanks”

Anonymous Parent

“I have not tried to phone as I am deaf. I felt like I was listened to with the use of a BSL interpreter. My son enjoyed coming into the room and playing with the toys.”

Anonymous Parent