Typically the young people we are describing may show some of the signs shown on the diagram below.  For many young people, no one has noticed their difficulties before.

Click on the headings to reveal more about the signs of communication needs that you should look for in the young people you work with.


Download a copy of this chart here









Poor social and conversation skills

  • They appear to overreact to jokes and sarcasm or become very angry at something that isn’t identifiable to anyone else
  • They are very quiet and hold back and then just follow along with everyone else
  • They will watch to see if other people laugh and then will laugh too but would not be able to explain what was funny
  • They avoid conversations and communication by avoiding appointments and group situations. They may spend more time on their own and may prefer to eat alone and appear to like Loss of Association time
  • They avoid conversations and communication by ‘hiding’ in groups – in a group of their own peers they can laugh along and feel normal. They may be extremely difficult to see on a one to one basis

Poor organisational skills

  • They are disorganised and chaotic. They will regularly forget what they are supposed to be doing. They may ask for the time constantly or ask what’s happening for the rest of the day
  • They forget to bring things for their appointments or forget appointments altogether
  • They have trouble putting things in the right order and will forget what’s happening next. They may have trouble telling you what happened in the correct sequence of events

Unclear speech

  • Their speech may be difficult to understand – they may mumble, have a lisp or a stammer

Poor understanding

  • They do not follow your instructions or do not follow them properly - they may only do the last thing you asked them to do or just look blank
  • They may break rules again and again despite constant reminders from staff. They may not learn from past experiences or understand the consequences of their actions

Poor language skills

  • They may repeat themselves when recounting events or stories and may get lost while trying to tell you something
  • They may not be able to say things in the right order or sequence – this will get worse if they are stressed or under pressure
  • You may become confused about what it is they are trying to tell you
  • They may appear to be 'making stuff up' or lying because of the pauses, repetitions and confusion

Poor number skills

  • They have difficulty remembering a string of numbers such as telephone numbers
  • They may get dates and times wrong when recalling events and appointments

Poor reading and writing skills

  • They pretend to be able to read and / or avoid reading and writing
  • They may have slow reading and / or writing speed and poor spelling and will therefore have problems filling out forms
  • Their handwriting is not clear and they may use capital letters to disguise difficulties with reversible letters (e.g. d/b)
  • They misread similar words (eg.. was / saw, county / country)