Children's Speech & Language Therapy in Buckinghamshire



What are Social Communication Difficulties (SCD) and Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)?

Social communication is the ability to spend time and interact with a variety of people, including being able to make friends, understand and manage emotions, and follow social rules.  It also includes the understanding and use of non-verbal communication such as body language, and non-literal language such as sarcasm and jokes.

Difficulties in this area can affect all aspects of a child or young person’s academic and social life.

Both SCD and ASD involve difficulty with social communication skills, and children and young people may also have developmental issues such as language or cognitive difficulties. However, ASD has the additional defining characteristic of restricted and/or repetitive behaviours such as intense interests in specific areas, or sensory processing difficulties (e.g. finding certain noises or textures uncomfortable).

What might I notice if a child or student has SCD or ASD.

Difficulties with social communication are usually apparent before or around the age of three but some children’s difficulties may be more subtle and may not be picked up until they start school.  Early “red flags” may include:

  • No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by six months or soon after
  • No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles or other facial expressions by nine months
  • No babbling by twelve months
  • No back-and-forth gestures such as pointing, showing, reaching or waving by twelve months
  • Fewer than 16 gestures used by 16 months
  • Any loss of speech, babbling or social skills at any age

Children with social communication difficulties may also have difficulty sharing attention, using and understanding non-verbal communication, they may lack creative play or have sensory difficulties. As children grow older, comprehension difficulties, monotonous speech, literal understanding, poor perspective taking, inflexible thinking, or limited friendship skills may also be noticed.

If you are worried about your child’s skills, please consult your child’s GP, nursery, school or our Speech and Language Therapy team.

How does the Bucks SLT service support children and young people with SCD or ASD?

We can facilitate children’s  or young people’s communication using a variety of methods such as pictures, symbols, signing, low  or high tech communication devices  and/or spoken and written language.  We often use visual and organisation supports such as visual timetables and colour-coded activities.  We can also help  develop social skills in a range of areas, such as understanding and following common social ‘rules’ (e.g. how to take turns in a game, or answer a question in the classroom), developing understanding of emotions, facial expressions and body language, and working and socialising with others.

Useful resources

Visual supports: Makaton signs, symbols, objects of reference, PECS, low/high tech communication devices

Organisation skills: Visual schedules between or within activities

Social skills: SCERTS, Social Thinking, Social Stories, comic strip conversations, Intensive Interaction, Talk about programmes, Lego therapy, SMilE therapy etc.

Behaviour: Reward systems, Behaviour charts etc.


Useful links


The National Autistic Society:

The Autism Education Trust:

Autism Speaks:

Social communication:


Intensive interaction:


Social Thinking:

Visual supports:



Communicate in Print:



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External resources

Talking Point progress checker

Talking Point progress checker

Talking Point progress checker - Click here to go to Talking Point's Progress Checker, where you can check the progress of your child's language development by answering questions about their communication skills.

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Bucks Family Information Service

Bucks Family Information Service

The Buckinghamshire Family Information Service website contains information about services and activities for children and their families in Buckinghamshire.

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Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust

Buckinghamshire Healthcare Children and Young People's Services

Click here for information about Buckinghamshire Healthcare's health visiting, school nursing, Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy services.

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Last updated: 10 November, 2016