Communication and Interaction – SLCN in Schools

Child with hands over ears

Social Communication Difficulties (SCD) including Autistic Spectrum Conditions (ASC)

Children with Social communication difficulties (SCD) and Autistic Spectrum Conditions (ASC) experience difficulties typically falling within the areas of social interaction and relationships, social communication, social understanding, flexible thinking and sensory challenges. Social Communication Difficulties and Autistic Spectrum Conditions occur across a wide range of abilities and may also be found in combination with other difficulties.

Some of the characteristic difficulties include:

    • Difficulties in understanding social situations and responding to normal environmental and social cues;
    • Difficulty in intuitively sensing other people’s feeling and intentions;
    • Inappropriate or limited social initiative and problems with establishing and maintaining reciprocal relationships;
    • Rigidity of thinking and a tendency to follow personal agendas which are not easily amenable to adult direction with an absence of awareness of the needs or emotions of others;
    • Difficulty with open-ended or unstructured situations and with change;
    • High susceptibility to anxiety and stress;
    • Preference to participate in obsessive interests or repetitive activities may limit expressive or creative activities;
    • Impaired use of language, expressive and/or receptive, which may include odd intonation, literal interpretations and idiosyncratic phrases and may extend to more bizarre expressive forms and limited expression, reducing the potential for two-way communication. Good vocabulary, particularly in preferred subjects and topics, may lead adults and peers to overestimate the true level of understanding of language;
    • Difficulty in processing and navigating environments; e.g. transitioning from activities, rooms, year groups and schools;
    • High susceptibility to hyper/hypo- sensory sensitivity.
The majority of children with Social Communication Difficulties/Autistic Spectrum Conditions will have their special educational needs suitably addressed by arrangements in mainstream classrooms supported, if necessary, as described above, by the school’s delegated budget. There will, however, be some pupils who continue to experience a much higher level of difficulty than their peers in making progress in their education. These situations may occur when, despite carefully planned and executed interventions by the school, the children continues to have difficulties with communication, interaction and imagination which impede his or her access to the curriculum. The difficulties are more clearly evident and severe: impaired language development, rigidity and inflexibility of thought and behaviour, difficulties with social interaction and communication and sensory issues.

Mild social difficulties.

What do you notice about the child / young person?

    • Able to work on same tasks as peers with some additional support. Able to learn in the whole class group. Interested in peers and wants to have friends but needs help with this.
    • Child responds to planned strategies.
    • Children may be developing understanding of their difficulty and can manage their levels of occasional mild anxiety and sensory needs. This will depend on the child, their age, cognitive ability and their social communication difficulty/autism.
Quality First Teaching Strategies (all)
    • Whole school awareness and understanding of SCD/ASC and its implications for the curriculum.
    • Tasks may need to be differentiated by level/outcome/pitch/pace and grouping. Aspects of structured teaching (TEACCH) may be helpful.
    • Staff are skilled at selecting appropriate methods and materials into their lesson plans to ensure access across the curriculum for child with individual needs e.g. explicit, visual instructions, clear example of what finished looks like, alternative methods of recording considered.
    • Class teacher uses appropriate social communication and sensory assessments to inform outcome setting and using the plan, review, assess cycle.

Relevant information, assessments & links

Child’s difficulties may present in either the home and/or school

What do you notice about the child / young person?

The child’s difficulties that may present in either the home and/or school may include:

    • inability to interpret social cues
    • poor social timing
    • lack of social empathy
    • rejection of normal body contact or unawareness of other people’s personal space,
    • sensory reactions to body contact
    • difficulties maintaining appropriate eye contact
    • lack of social conversation skills
    • literal use and interpretation of speech rigidity and inflexibility of thought processes
    • resistance to change
    • solitary play and unusually focussed special interests
    • may have issues relating to health and personal care issues

      The child can exhibit highly atypical behaviour, such as: obsessive, challenging and/or withdrawn behaviours, inappropriate use of language, abnormal responses to sensory experiences and signs of distress requiring significant adjustments.

Relevant information, assessments & links

      Child may need access to:

    • Flexible teaching arrangements.
    • Help in acquiring, comprehending and using language.
    • Help in articulation.
    • Help in acquiring literacy skills.
    • Where necessary, help in using low level alternative means of communication.
    • Support in using different means of communication confidently for a range of purposes.
    • Support in organising and coordinating oral and written language.
    • Withdrawal facilities provided for times of stress.
    • Opportunities for the development of social interaction and communication skills.
    • Staff to monitor child during break times and lunchtimes and have strategies in place to reduce anxiety during unstructured times.
    • Curricular language will benefit from ‘scaffolding’ and pre-learning approaches.
    • Additional access to I.T. may be necessary.
    • Child may need considerable preparation for changes in routine.
    • Provision map targets will be addressed through individual, small group and class work within the curriculum framework.
    • Strategies used to facilitate transfer from one school/teacher to another, may include passports, one page profiles, a familiarisation book of photos of the new environment, a file of coping strategies/equipment and social scripts.
    • Structured programmes of work may need to be clearly set out via a visual timetable or Now and Next approach.
    • There should be consistency within the classroom in terms of organisation, structure, routines, space and place.
    • Child may need access to a workstation and equipment for Augmented and Alternative Communication (AAC), e.g. Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) (direct adult input and support will be necessary in early stages), signing or due to sensory integration difficulties.
    • Consideration may need to be given to the physical environment.

Relevant information, assessment and links

    • Staff have received focused training on the specific implications of the effects of SCD/Autism on the child. Email [email protected] for details of practical strategy training available.
    • Specialist Advice, individualised for the child, from the Autism Social Communication Team may be required. Email [email protected] for further details and referral form.
    • Implementation and monitoring of agreed actions following specialist advice.
    • Strategies such as Social Stories, Comic Strip Conversations, LEGO Therapy, PIKAS and Circle of friends may be used to promote social success/appropriate behaviour.
    • Assess social progress using a resource such as ‘The Social Play Record’ by Chris White. Further details available from the Autism & Social Communication Team.
    • Parent/carer to be involved in the formulation, monitoring and implementation of targets.
    • Individualised targets, including a target focusing on the child’s social development.
    • Multi-agency advice may be required through the Team Around the Family or diagnostic process. A record will be kept of consultation with external professionals, such as the Specialist Teacher, Educational Psychologists, CAMHS or Speech and Language Therapists if they are involved with the child.
    • Parent/carer to be involved in the formulation, monitoring and implementation of targets.
    • Use of a home-school diary to aid communication.
    • Child may need an individual risk reduction/behaviour plan.
    • Staff able to implement assess, plan, review cycle using appropriate tools. Specialist Advice from the Autism & Social Communication Team may be required. Email [email protected] for further details and example tools/resources.
    • Staff able to monitor and assess for access to special exam arrangements.
    • Training on our Local Offer.
    • SEN Support: research evidence on effective approaches and examples of current practice in good and outstanding schools and colleges

The impairments resulting from the child’s SCD/ASC affecting their social development, communications and rigidity of behaviour and thought are enduring, consistently impeding his/her learning and leading to severe difficulties in functioning within the setting environment.

What do you notice about the child / young person?

    • Adjustments and revision of the differentiated classroom provision for the child’s education has not resulted in the expected progress towards achieving academic, social and emotional targets.
    • Evidence of the child’s need for a more specific programme of support to develop his/her social communication skills.
    • Evidence of significant difficulties persisting for the child as a result of his/her inflexibility of thoughts (resistance to change and new experiences, impaired Theory of Mind).
    • Evidence of a high priority having to be given to the management of the child’s behaviour in the planning of most classroom activities and the organisation of his/her learning environment.
    • High levels of anxiety are beginning to impact negatively on attendance (below 85%).

Specialised adaptations (a few children)

    • Highly individualised learning programme developed by the Leader of SEND (SENCO, Inclusion Manager) with support from external professionals as required which evidences:
    • Advice from external professionals, interventions implemented and impact on progress.
    • Planned strategies to support the individual child with expected outcomes.
    • Class teacher will use advised strategies and assessment tools/resources to inform outcome setting and using the plan, review, assess cycle.

Relevant information, assessments & links

Download the PDF version of the Graduated Approach