Social Communication Pathway

Early Years Social Communication

What is Social Communication?

Social communication refers to the use of verbal (spoken language) and nonverbal (eye gaze, facial expression, gestures) communication in social situations, to tell other people what you want, express feelings, relate to other people and develop meaningful relationships.

What might difficulties in this area look like?

Children may experience difficulties in the following areas:

  • Attending to activities
  • Listening and responding to others
  • Initiating interactions
  • Interacting with others
  • Understanding and relating to other people
  • Using interaction to show people things or to be sociable
  • Using nonverbal (e.g. gesture, pointing) or verbal (e.g. words) methods to make requests
  • Coping with changes in routine

How may a Speech and Language Therapist help parents/carers develop their skills to support their Early Years child?

Our Speech and Language Therapy team supports and promotes children’s communication and language development in the Early Years (up to when a child goes to primary school). We assess, diagnose and develop packages of care, including training of the wider workforce and parents/carers to improve outcomes for children with social communication difficulties.

We currently offer the following packages of care:

  1. Play and Connect – a webinar which provides information on communication and strategies that parents/carers can use with their child to support the development of their communication skills.
  2. Intensive Interaction – an approach that is used to develop positive social interaction. It can help your child to develop early communication skills, such as attending to another person, using and understanding eye contact and facial expressions, using vocalisations with meaning, and taking turns in exchanges of behaviour.
  3. Building Attention – the sessions aim to develop natural and spontaneous communication through the use of visually based and highly motivating activities, which will capture your child’s attention, improve joint attention and develop shared enjoyment in simple turn-taking games.
  4. Chances to Communicate – activities that focus on introducing strategies to parents/carers, allowing them to create opportunities for children to communicate, through the use of highly motivating and fun games.

How do you refer to the Early Years Social Communication team?

We accept referrals from parents/carers, health professionals (such as Health Visitors and GP), and other professionals (such as nursery staff or portage workers). We ask that you complete an Early Years checklist so that we can identify the most appropriate care for each child.

Cut-off for Early Years Speech and Language Therapy referrals

For children who will be starting in Reception at primary school in September 2022, the last date an Early Years Speech and Language Therapy referral will be accepted is 31May 2022. This will allow time for the child to be seen for their initial assessment and have a report written with targets and advice by the time they start school. This will greatly support the transition process as the school staff will receive clear recommendations on how to support the child in their new setting; this will also help ease parental anxiety during the transition phase. These referrals will be accepted in the usual way, with a completed SPA form and Early Years checklist.

If a child is not referred by 31 May, they can be referred via the SENCo at school. Please note that a referral for a school-aged child requires evidence of how the school has supported the child for two academic terms with clear outcomes of the strategies and interventions which have been put in place. Children not referred by 31 May, will not be able to be referred to the school aged service until Summer term 2023.

Download and complete the Early Years Checklist

What can you do at home in the meantime?

You can visit to see how your baby or child is getting on with their speech, language and communication development.

The following websites provide simple activities and games that you can carry out with your child to develop their speech, language and communication skills:

You can visit your local children’s centre, which provides a range of groups that are aimed at supporting parents to develop their child’s communication skills.  Families can find out about Play and Communication services at their local children’s centre:

Child with adult child with abacus

Teacher and children Woman with child

School Age Communication

What is Social Communication  

Social communication refers to the use of verbal (spoken language) and nonverbal (eye gaze, facial expression, gestures) communication in social situations to develop relationships. These are important skills to develop meaningful relationships at home, nursery, school, and college.  

What may difficulties in this area look like? 

The child or young person may experience difficulties in: 

  • Using and understanding non-verbal communication for example facial expressions, personal space.  
  • Interacting within social situations such as turn-taking during a conversation, waiting for their turn in a activity 
  • Seeing other people’s points of view  
  • Understanding non-literal language, such as ‘pull your socks up’  
  • Using language to problem-solve  
  • Coping with unstructured situations e.g., playtime in school  
  • Coping with changes in routine   

How may a Speech and Language Therapist help parents/carers to develop their skills to support their school aged child? 

Our Speech and Language Therapy team offers a child centred, evidence-based approach for children and young people aged 0-16 (or 19 if they have an Education, Health and Care Plan) to their parents/carers, and professionals working with the child and young person within educational settings.  

We offer assessment, training, intervention and advice to support children and young people who have difficulties with social communication and Autism Spectrum Disorder (to promote neurodiversity, we prefer to use the term “Condition”, rather than “Disorder”).   

Assessment and/or intervention takes place within the child or young person’s familiar and natural environments, such as home or school. 

How can you get in contact with the Speech and Language Service? 

  • In the first instance, share your concerns or queries with the Teacher, and the Special Education Needs Coordinator (SENCO) or Inclusion Manager at your child’s school. They will be able to speak to you about your concerns and share ways in which they will, or already are, supporting your child to develop their social communication skills.  
  • The SENCO or Inclusion Manager can also make a referral to the Speech and Language Therapy team if needed. 
  • A fully completed Single Point Access (SPA) form
  • A completed Speech and Language Therapy Screener. Screener for KS1&2. Screener for KS3&4.
  • Evidence about what strategies have already been tried in school for at least two terms. It is important to include a review of these. If you need help with this, speak to your Speech and Language Therapist.
  • Please view this helpful video which takes you through the referral process for school aged children
  • If your child attends an Early Years setting, please take a look at the 'Early Years Social Communication' tab for further details. 

What can you do at home in the meantime? 

Some useful website links for information and activities:

For more support, please look at: