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Early years: difficulty with social communication and developing relationships

Strategies and approaches:

  • Mirror, copy and mimic the child’s play as a way into reciprocal interaction and to show that it is valued.
  • Use intensive interaction strategies.
  • Planning of small groupings and opportunities to develop social understanding and inference.
  • Model functional language e.g. “hello, please, can I play?”, “help me”, “Hello, Sonny wants to play”.
  • Consistent use of natural gestures e.g. pointing, facial expressions, open body language/position at child’s level.
  • Organise small group or 1 to 1 tasks and activities, e.g.  which involve turn taking and learning each other’s names, build up the size of the group gradually, adult to child, adult to two children etc.
  • Promote a calm learning environment.
  • Be clear and consistent in your communication of expectations.
  • Ensure staff support child to label their own and other’s emotions.
  • Consider creating communication friendly spaces for the child.


Inclusion Development Programme (IDP) – Supporting children on the autism spectrum in the Early Years

Intensive Interaction

Elizabeth Jarman’s Communication Friendly Spaces information

Link to SEN Toolkit for more in-depth advice and support

Last updated 2 November 2021

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