What is typical social communication?

Even though every child is different, as most teachers are already aware of, there are typical skills that could be expected for children around certain ages.

Age range


Around 6 months of age

Being able to smile

Trying to make eye contact with caregiver

Enjoying interacting

Copying some movements or facial expressions

Responding to name

Being aware of familiar and unfamiliar people

Around age 1

Enjoying simple social games (such as peek-a-boo)

Following simple instructions

Making noise to get people's attention

Copying sound and gestures

Around age 2

Copying others

Socializing and showing interest in other people than caregivers

Playing alongside others (parallel play)

Following instructions

Showing joint attention (for example, pointing at something then looking at caregiver to make sure they see it too)

Around age 3

Seeking out other people to play with

Taking turns into playing

Use imagination during play (but may confuse real and pretend)

Having some understanding of emotional states

Having a conversation (but it may be hard to stay on the same topic)

Following more complex instructions

Sharing objects and toys

Around age 4

Being interested in new experiences

Cooperating with other children

Establishing friendships

Around age 5

Wanting to please and be like friends

Agreeing to rules more willingly

Singing, dance, and act

Showing more independence

Being to be able to distinguish fantasy from reality


From 6 years on, children tend to gradually improve their communication skills. They increasingly express their wants, needs, and thoughts effectively through an expanding vocabulary repertoire. They start engaging in to-and-fro conversations up to the point where they are able to engage in complex conversations and discussions. Playing with and hanging out with friends becomes increasingly important, and even though sometimes children may be mean to each other, they get better at sharing and cooperating, as well as maintaining and appreciating close relationships.


When should I be concerned about a student with difficulties with social communication?

While all children develop their social skills at their own rate, they are expected to achieve their social communication milestones within a few months of their peers. Teachers  may be concerned if a student exhibits any of the following:

  • Little or no interest in communicating with the teacher or school personnel.
  • Refuses to respond to people in general, or responds only superficially.
  • Little or no interest in playing with other children.
  • Doesn’t engage in a variety of activities and seems to be unusually passive.
  • Avoids or seems aloof with other children and adults.
  • Is either easily distracted and unable to concentrate on any single activity for more than five minutes (when they are older than 3 years), or is extremely focused in one single activity without distracting from it.
  • Continued independent play when peers are present without playing interactively.
  • Difficulties with following the rules of social games with peers (e.g., tag, hide-and-seek).
  • Watching peers play from the periphery without joining in.
  • Difficulties with playing imaginary games.Difficulties with turn taking during games.
  • Identifying as “friends” classmates with whom he has no personal relationship.
  • Having trouble staying on topic during conversations.
  • Insisting on talking about their own interest, regardless of the interest of others.
  • Difficulties with using nonverbal communication, including eye contact, facial expressions, and nonverbal communicative, descriptive, or emphatic gestures.
  • Difficulties with recognizing others’ emotions or intentions.
  • Extremely fearful and timid behavior, or extremely aggressive behavior.


What can I do to help a student with difficulties in social communication?

Some children need a little support or coaching to improve their social communication. If you are a teacher, there are a few things that teachers may attempt to support a student’s social communication growth:

  • Pay close attention. Teachers can observe how their students communicate with each other, as well as with adults. Children build communication skills rapidly at the beginning of their lives and, with each week that passes, a child with some difficulty can potentially fall behind his/her peers.
  • Identify difficulties. Teachers can try to identify and note what types of difficulties in communication skills (e.g., using appropriate language, making eye contact, taking turns, or sharing…) a student is struggling with. Also, they may take notes of other behaviors that may be present–such as aggressive behaviors or tantrums–and any situations that may have happened just before a problem occurs.
  • Emphasize positive social communication. Teachers can model and emphasize appropriate classroom behaviors, such as turn taking or sharing during playtime, while explaining that classmates expect the same behavior.
  • Help children build their skills. Practicing different strategies for settling social conflicts, role playing, and supervised playdates can benefit children with difficulties in social interaction.
  • Demonstrate good social behavior. Children learn a lot from watching how adults around them act, so teachers who use good social behavior when talking to both students and colleagues can be very beneficial.
  • Praise appropriate behavior. Teachers can draw attention to students as they behave appropriately by giving direct or “labeled” praise. A labeled praise emphasizes a specific behavior (e.g., “Yiannis, excellent job sharing the blocks with Eleni”) rather than providing vague emphasis (e.g., “Excellent job”).
  • Communicate concerns to the student’s caregivers. If a student has been having a hard time interacting with peers, a teacher may set up a meeting with the student’s caregivers. Suggesting positive classmates for after-school playdates can help a student's caregivers to create more opportunities for building communication skills outside the classroom.
  • Speak with a school mental health professional. After speaking with a student’s caregiver, teachers may also consult with a school mental health professional to determine if further support or evaluation is needed.
  • Seek support. With a caregiver’s permission, teachers may consult other professionals who specialize in helping children with social communication difficulties.


Pediatricians, occupational, physical, and speech-language therapists can help to determine if a delay is present through observation and evaluation of a child’s skills. Further, a child’s caregivers may choose to have these professionals to help their child build skills when they are struggling. Occupational, physical, and speech-language therapists also work with teachers and caregivers so that they know how to support skill development outside of therapy sessions.

The public system provides services through the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and Centers of Multidisciplinary Assessment, Counseling, and Support (KEDASY).

Social communication difficulties that are too intense, present in different contexts, discrepant from those faced by children the same age, and that negatively interfere with classroom daily activities may indicate the possibility of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).


Where to find more information

Specific, detailed, and clinical information on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) 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.



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