Social language skills are what we use in our daily interaction with others, including what we say and how we say it, both verbally and non-verbally.  Children with difficulties in social language skills may not understand, and often misinterpret, what others are saying or doing, resulting in a breakdown in communication.  

The American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA), lists three major social communication skills:

Using Language For Different Reasons

  • Greeting. Saying “hello” or “goodbye.”
  • Informing. “I’m going to get a cookie.”
  • Demanding. “Give me a cookie right now.”
  • Promising. “I’m going to get you a cookie.”
  • Requesting. “I want a cookie, please.”

Changing Language For The Listener Or Situation

  • Talking differently to a baby than to an adult.
  • Giving more information to someone who does not know the topic. Knowing to skip some details when someone already knows the topic.
  • Talking differently in a classroom than on a playground.

Following Rules For Conversations And Storytelling

  • Taking turns when you talk.
  • Letting others know the topic when you start talking.
  • Staying on topic.
  • Trying another way of saying what you mean when someone did not understand you.
  • Using gestures and body language, like pointing or shrugging.
  • Knowing how close to stand to someone when talking.
  • Using facial expressions and eye contact.

Components of Social Language

Social language is very broad area of communication.  Each component has great significance on its own and is dependent, interwoven and supportive of the other components.  These components form the foundation of social language skills and are the focus of speech and language therapy sessions.

Social Interaction: social reasoning, social tasks, peer-related social competence, conflict resolution, code-switching, cultural influences.

Social Cognition: theory of mind, emotional competence, joint attention, inference, pre-supposition, executive functioning

Pragmatics: body language, facial expression (gestures, eye contact, gaze), communicative intentions, discourse (topic maintenance, turn taking, scripts). 

Language Processing: spoken and written language comprehension and expression, morphology, syntax, semantics, phonological skills.

Practicing The Basics

Whether working in social skills groups or individual therapy sessions, having the basics in good working order provides a strong foundation of social competence.

Initiating Conversations: Being able to greet others with appropriate verbal and nonverbal language (facial expressions, gestures). In addition, knowing when it is appropriate versus inappropriate to initiate a conversation with someone and navigate more advanced situations, such as joining a group conversation.

Topic Maintenance: Being able to stay on topic, as well as knowing how and when it is appropriate to change topics. This includes listening skills and attention skills.

Asking and Answering Questions: Being able to answer and ask questions appropriately, maintain the conversation, take turns, keep the pace of the conversation, and ask questions to clarify.

Non-verbal Language: Being able to have appropriate body language – facial expressions, eye contact, gestures, body proximity, tone of voice, etc. Being able to use appropriate body language and likewise interpret it from others. A significant portion of communication relies on nonverbal communication.

Problem Solving: Being able to identify a problem and find a solution, compromise, and negotiate.

Empathy: Being able to feel what another person feels.

Perspective Taking: Being able to take the point of view of someone else. This is critical in knowing you are giving enough information and context for someone to comprehend what you are telling them.

Apologizing: Being able to understand the importance of apologizing, then knowing when you should and how.

Self-Advocacy: Being able to know when they need help, identify who to ask, and then ask appropriately depending on the situation.

Figurative Language and Sarcasm: Being able to identify and comprehend idioms, similes, metaphors, jokes, and sarcasm. These aspects of language can completely change the meaning.

Website Resources

Social language therapy is well supported online and most children with social language difficulties are very responsive to online therapy.  The tools are an excellent way to introduce, build and sustain social competency during therapy sessions and generalize into daily life.  

Social Skills Checklist: a screener that provides an easy to use checklist for children ages 0-8. 

Social Thinking: information, webinars, research and programs/resources to purchase.

Social Stories: Carol Gray is well known for her social stories.  Her website will help you to understand what social stories are and how to use them.

Everyday Speech: A membership website created by a speech therapist that has a comprehensive curriculum of social language skills, including videos, downloadable resources and interactive activities. 


Social Stories Creator: This app contains 20+ social stories. You can create your own, share, receive, or print stories as well. You have the option to purchase social stories individually. $9.99

Between The Lines Advanced HD: There are 3 apps for different levels. The main focuses are listening skills, body language, and expressions. The app uses real videos, pictures, and voices for a variety of social situations. $15.99

Social Detective: This app is a companion to the “You are a Social Detective” book in Michelle Garcia Winner’s Social Thinking curriculum. It covers expected and unexpected behavior, understanding others’ comfortable and uncomfortable thoughts, social toolbox items, and smart guesses. $9.99 or $23.99 for all 3 levels.

Conversation Builder: A great app for conversation skills: turn-taking, initiating conversation, and staying on topic. Use in one-on-one sessions or in group therapy. There are 160 conversations to choose from and the student can either initiate or respond to conversations. $19.99 or $31.00 for both.

Let’s Be Social: Includes 20 social skills lessons with the ability to create your own lessons as well. The topics include personal interactions, navigating the community, school behavior, handling change, and social relationships. FREE – $9.99 upgrade.

At Vibe, our speech therapists are trained to work with children of every age, and in every facet of speech and language.  We are experts in our field. The clinical and personal relationship we have with you is at the core of everything we do. From the resources we bring to support growth in communication, to the highly individualized therapy sessions. We offer collaborative partnerships with other providers, family and caregivers and we are committed to exceeding your expectations. We look forward to helping your child bring their best self into the world!

Contact Vibe Speech Therapy to learn more about how we can help you!