Today’s post is all about the social communication and how Speech Pathologists can help with social skills and build your child’s confidence. But first, let’s pause and take a minute to picture yourself in the following situations: 

A friend comes over for afternoon tea.  Your child sees your friend reach for a biscuit and says, “Better not take those, or you’ll get even bigger”.  You can’t believe your child could say something so rude!

As you talk with your teenage neighbour about his new car, he has trouble staying on topic.  The conversation quickly shifts to focus on his favourite TV show.  He doesn’t maintain eye contact or laugh at your jokes. He continues to talk even when you look at your watch and comment on the time. You finally leave and are relieved that the conversation is over.

What’s going on in these situations!? 

Both your child and neighbour speak well.  Their ideas are clear and the sentences they use make sense. What they may have trouble with is social communication.  Speech Pathologists often refer to this as pragmatics. These are the rules of a conversation; what we follow when we talk. In many instances, knowing and using these rules makes it easier to communicate. 

What are Social Communication Skills? 

Social communication includes three major skills:

1. Using language for different reasons or purposes, such as: 

– Greeting 

– Informing 

– Demanding 

– Negotiation 

– Requesting and Questioning (the list goes on…)

2. Changing language according to the listener or situation. 

For example, talking differently to a baby than an adult or School Principal.  Changing the words you use and way you talk at home and at work. You may also give more information to someone who does not know the topic.

3. Following rules for conversations and storytelling, such as: 

– Taking turns when you talk

– Letting others know the topic 

– Staying on topic 

– Using gestures and body language (e.g., eye contact, appropriate physical distancing) that match what it is you’re saying and makes the listener feel comfortable. 

How Speech Pathologists Can Help with Social Skills: 

A child or young person with social communication problems may appear to say the wrong thing or act the wrong way when talking.  They may also use language in limited ways.  

It’s important to recognise that all children may break some of these rules as they learn.  However, if your child has particular difficulty mastering these skills even after explicit guidance from you, they may have a social communication disorder.  

A Speech Pathologist helps children and young people with social communication problems. Our team at Active Speech Pathology is well-equipped to assess and support children to learn how to use language flexibly and confidently with a range of different people in different situations. We provide individual as well as group therapy options. You can find out more information about our groups here.

Social Communication Tips 

Parents, here are 5 helpful ways to encourage social language learning everyday. 

  1. Use everyday situations.  Give your child chances to practice good social communication across the day. Practice staying on topic by talking about school.  Have your child ask others what they want to eat for dinner to practice asking questions. Let your child ask for what they need to get ready for bed. 
  2. Role play conversations.  Pretend to talk to different people in different situations. For example, have your child explain the rules of a game to different people. Demonstrate how he would talk to a child or adult, family member or a stranger. 
  3. Practice messages. Ask your child what he would say if he wanted something.  Talk about different ways to present a message, such as polite vs impolite (“Can I please go to the party?” vs “I’m going to the party”) and indirect vs direct (“That music is loud” vs “Turn off the music” 
  4. Show how non-verbal cues are important.  You can look at pictures of faces, and talk about how the person might feel.  Talk about what it means when a person’s face doesn’t match what they say. For instance, when someone smiles as they say, “No way!”
  5. Say something about the topic of conversation before talking about it.  This may help your child stay on topic and change topics more easily.  Get them to talk more about a topic by asking questions or adding information. 

If you would like to know more information about how Speech Pathologists can help with social skills or have a question to ask regarding your child’s social communication skills, please get in touch with us by phone or emailing