What is typical social communication?
We begin to have interactions with other people very early in our lives, even before we know how to speak! When babies look at us when we call them, smile at us, and mimic our faces, they are already communicating. We continue to develop social communication skills up until we are adults, and even though all of us are different, there are some common skills that are expected from all of us. Typical social communication involves being able to express how we feel to other people, to understand what other people are feeling by how they look and by what they tell us, to express what we want, need, and think, and to exchange ideas about a variety of topics. For most of us, large amounts of time are spent socializing, and making and pleasing friends can become really important.
When should I pay special attention to social communication difficulties?
Even though we are all different, and it is true that some of us are better with social communication than others, signs that we may have difficulties with social communication are:
- Lacking interest in spending time with caregivers or others.
- Choosing to stay alone even when others are around.
- Lacking interest in playing or hanging out with others our age.
- Avoiding interactions with others.
- Having trouble responding to others when they speak.
- Not considering regular classmates as “friends”.
- Feeling easily distracted during interactions.
- Having trouble staying on topic during conversations.
- Insisting on talking about something, regardless of whether others are talking about it.
- Lacking interest in available activities.
- Having trouble understanding and following the rules of games or social situations, such as a party.
- Having difficulty with imaginary games or activities.
- Having difficulties with using nonverbal communication, including eye contact, facial expressions, and nonverbal gestures.
- Having difficulties with recognizing others’ emotions or intentions.
- Having extremely fearful, timid, or aggressive behavior.
What can I do if I struggle with social communication difficulties?
It can be hard and frustrating to deal with social communication difficulties. If you understand that you struggle with them, there are a few things you may try:
- Ask a trusted adult for help. Trusted adults are usually our caregivers, other family members, or someone else who is responsible for taking care of us. Let your trusted adults know about your difficulties. They can be helpful for assisting you and helping you get any additional help you may need.
- Talk to your teacher. Reaching out to your teacher can be helpful, too. Teachers can usually tell if we are having any difficulties with social communication. Talking to them not only helps you understand your difficulty, but it can also inform them on things that can be done in the classroom or at school to help you with your difficulties.
- Give yourself time. If you struggle with social communication difficulties, it is important to know that social interactions may be very demanding. So, remember to take your time and be patient with yourself.
- Pay attention to how people you trust usually act with other people. We may learn a lot from observing others. If you have people you trust around you, try observing how they interact with others.
- Approach people you trust or that you are more comfortable with. To get better with social communication, it is important to practice. But it can be very overwhelming to practice around people that we are not comfortable with. If you have people you like, or people that seem to like you around, attempt to talk to them about things the other person is also interested about.
If you have already tried some or most of these suggestions and the problems you are facing persist, it may be time to ask a trusted adult to seek out professional support.
Social communication difficulties that are too frequent, present in different contexts, discrepant from those faced by others the same age, and that negatively interfere with our daily lives may indicate the possibility of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
What kind of professional support can be sought out?
It is not unusual for us to feel embarrassed, inadequate, or even guilty if we struggle with social communication skills. If you think you have social communication difficulties, talk to a trusted adult or teacher. They can help you to seek an evaluation from a professional. The earlier you receive support, the easier things will become.
Occupational therapists, speech-language therapists, and mental health professionals can help us when we are struggling with social communication difficulties.
The public system provides services through the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and Centers of Multidisciplinary Assessment, Counseling, and Support (KEDASY).
Where to find more information
Specific, detailed, and clinical information on Autism Spectrum Disorder can be found at [clinical short guide at the program website].
If you want to know more about the closest available services for educational and public health systems for children and adolescent assistance across the country, go to our Services Mapping webpage here.
You can also find more information by pointing your phone camera at the QR code below or by clicking here.