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Social interaction

Some children develop their interaction and language skills differently. They may act as though their own view is the most important and struggle to cope with change or lack of routine. Although they can be friendly, they may find it hard to read social clues or interact with people, others prefer their own company. Many need some tasks to be done in a certain way and can get very upset if they are not.

If your child can chat away using simple sentences but seems to struggle to understand what people are saying to them then they may need some help.

What should I look out for?

Everyone is different but there are some key things to look out for if you think your child might have social communication difficulties:

  • Do they tend to avoid eye contact or only show affection on their terms?
  • Do they struggle to share, find it hard to lose games or take part in group situations without getting upset?
  • Do they seem to have extreme reactions at times, for example, getting upset by loud noises, if you run out of a particular food or they cannot do something that was planned?
  • Do they come across as rude or unfeeling? They might take over conversations, interrupt others or comment on things in a way that causes upset
  • Are they fussy about certain things?
  • Are they quite clumsy, or do they have unusual mannerism, e.g. flapping their hands when excited or upset?
  • Do they seem to find it hard to understand what is said to them or to remember what has been discussed?
  • Are they very literal, taking what you say at face value?
  • Do they enjoy slapstick humour but struggle to follow jokes?
  • Are they able to repeat whole sequences from games, movies or books but find it hard to tell you about their day or describe what has happened when upset?
  • Do they have particular interests or become fixated on certain topics?
  • Can they read really well but not follow what they have read or find it hard to create written work?
  • Are they keen to do the right thing and get very anxious?

Guidance and helpful information

Encouraging social interaction skills from a young age is very important. You can help and support your child’s communication as you do everyday activities and play together.

Please check out the toolkits to the right for help and advice as to how you can help your child before deciding whether a referral into the service is necessary. These toolkits provide advice on how to spot difficulties your child might be having with talking and using language. They give advice on activities you can do at home with your child. You should select the toolkit for the right age group of your child. There are also web links that you may find useful.

The following tips might help:

  • Make sure your child is listening before you begin talking to them
  • Don’t assume that your child can understand what you have said. Some children can chat about favourite topics but struggle to understand what people are saying to them. Use easy to follow sentences and avoid negatives, e.g. say “Sit on the sofa” rather than “Don’t jump!”, say “Put your coat on the peg” rather than “put your things away”
  • Try making things visual – this could be showing, drawing pictures or writing things down
  • Don’t assume your child is being lazy, naughty or difficult. They may be experiencing things differently or get stressed in certain situations
  • Help them to understand why things are happening, particularly changes. They may find it hard to accept another person’s point of view

How to refer if I still have concerns?

For younger children a health visitor might be able to check your child’s development and explore your concerns.

You could talk to your child’s pre-school or school to see if they have noticed the same issues. If you are still concerned talk to your GP.

If appropriate any of these professionals can refer to Speech and Language Therapy for an assessment. Visit the Single Point of Access (SPA) page for information on the referral process.

If you require further guidance and advice you can speak to a Speech and Language Therapist by calling the SPA on 0300 247 0090 (Mon – Fri 9-5pm).

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