Social communication is the understanding, reading and processing of non-verbal cues.  It also involves inferring meaning from many different social scenarios.

Generally, people develop these skills throughout their childhood as they experience different and progressively more complex social interactions.  Some people have social communication difficulties; difficulties in their social use of language.  This can cause them to experience great difficulty in many life situations, especially in situations outside of their comfort zone and out in the community.


What are social communication programmes?



Social Communication programmes consist of a wide range of resources which can help children and adults improve their social communication. Social communication programmes work on the premise that as social skills are learnt, they can be taught to people who for many different reasons missed out on learning them.  They will actively try to teach the skills that someone needs for successful social interactions in order for them to be able to build relationships.



Social Communication programmes target areas such as;

  • Non-verbal communication  – eye contact, gestures, proximity, facial expression, touch, appearance
  • Paralinguistic skills – volume, rate, clarity intonation, fluency of speech
  • Conversation skills – listening, starting a conversation, maintaining a conversation through turn taking, questions, relevance, repairs and how to end a conversation.
  • Assertive behaviour – expressing feelings, standing up for yourself, making suggestions, apologising, disagreeing, complaining, requesting.


Who are they used for?

Social Communication programs are generally used with people who have learning disabilities and more specifically with teenagers and adults with disabilities such as Autism Spectrum Condition and Down Syndrome. The programmes can also be used with children who have a specific language impairment, specifically a pragmatic language impairment which impacts their understanding and use of social communication.


Who should implement it and how?


The approach is best implemented by a Speech and Language Therapist, but given the social nature of the approach it is most successful when supported by parents, carers, teachers or care home staff.  When the skills have been introduced to the client and practiced, perhaps in small groups or 1:1 with the therapist, they then have to be generalised to be used in the client’s everyday life.


The approach is often implemented through a block of therapy and works best in group sessions where clients can practice the skills they learn on each other which has more of a realistic social feel.  Group sessions attempt to give people with learning difficulties the social experiences they have missed in a safe and structured way.  By increasing their awareness of social situations and teaching basic skills they will be better equipped to seek out real social experiences.


Social communication programs are a great way to build someone’s self-esteem and prepare them to tackle new social situations.  It can enable people to have the courage to put themselves in situations they may have felt too scared too before and can help people understand situations they are in regularly more clearly.

Further information

If you are interested in accessing a Social Communication programme for yourself, your family member or service user then get in touch and one of our therapist will discuss the range of therapy options with you.

Image © Talkabout by Alex Kelly