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About social communication needs

Children and young people 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
  • sensory processing differences.

Social communication difficulties and autistic spectrum conditions occur across a wide range of abilities. They may also be found in combination with other conditions and needs.

Characteristic differences include a different perception of the sensory and social world leading to:

  • 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. Reluctance to follow adult direction. There is often an absence of awareness of the needs or emotions of others
  • Intolerance of uncertainty. This may be seen in difficulty with unstructured situations or tasks and change
  • Higher levels of anxiety and stress
  • High levels of attention to detail. Strong focus on special interests and a limited focus on areas outside of these interests
  • Differences in use of expressive and/or receptive language. This may include intonation, literal interpretations and idiosyncratic phrases. This may reduce the potential for two-way communication
  • Good vocabulary, particularly in preferred subjects and topics. This may lead adults and peers to overestimate the true level of understanding of language
  • Difficulty in processing and navigating environments. this may include transitioning from activities, rooms, year groups and schools
  • High susceptibility to hyper/hypo- sensory sensitivity.

The majority of children with social communication difficulties or autistic spectrum conditions will have their special educational needs suitably addressed by arrangements in mainstream classrooms supported, as described within the Ordinarily Available Inclusive Practiceguide.

Some children or young people may 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, children continue to have difficulties with communication, interaction and imagination which impact on their access to the curriculum.

Last updated 6 August 2021

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