Communication & social skills

As your child ages, communication skills and social skills become more and more important.


As your child ages, communication skills and social skills become more and more important. Being able to communicate about puberty will empower your child to understand the changes that are happening to them. It will also help you to understand how they are feeling about those changes.

This page is a summary of the things to consider when supporting your child’s communication and social skills as they go through puberty. The information on this page is not a complete list of all the things you need to build your child’s communication and social skills. However, it might give you some ideas for what you should focus on next.

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Developing communication and social skills will also help your child to build new relationships and develop existing relationships. There are many different types of strategies, resources and therapies to support your child to develop communication and social skills. Whether your child communicates verbally or non-verbally, practice is key to developing these skills and you have an important role to play in doing this.

Your child may already be working on these skills with a speech pathologist or other health professional. If so, that’s great! If not, that’s OK too. Each child is different. But it is good to know what other resources and services are available to assist you and your child if needed. There are links at the bottom of the page for where you can go for more specific information about communication resources, strategies and therapies.

There are some key foundational skills which help us all to communicate and socialise with others. These are about understanding the social rules that will help other people feel comfortable when communicating and socialising with your child.

These include social rules about:

  • private and public: being able to tell the difference between behaviours that can be done in public and behaviours that must be done in private
  • consent: recognising situations where consent is required and being able to ask for consent and give consent; this includes consent to touch other people and their belongings
  • hygiene: recognising that good hygiene is important when you want to communicate or socialise with other people; this does not mean your child needs to be able to do this independently

Children learn these skills over time. Each child will develop their skills and understanding at their own pace. Whichever pace your child learns at is OK.

Being able to communicate well and socialise with others is complex and requires a lot of skills that your child will develop over their lifetime.

It means being able to do things like:

  • start a conversation:
    • go up to a person
    • make an opening statement (e.g. ‘Hello’)
    • ask an opening question (e.g. ‘How are you?’)
  • maintain a conversation:
    • ask questions
    • answer questions
    • take turns and share the conversation
    • pay attention to the speaker
    • find common interests
    • manage disagreements
  • end a conversation:
    • give signals that you want to leave a conversation
    • make a statement to end a conversation (e.g. ‘I’ve got to go now. Bye’)
    • watch for signals that a person wants to leave a conversation
  • use and understand non-verbal communication and body language, specifically:
    • eye contact
    • body position
    • gestures
    • facial expressions

To be able to communicate about puberty, these are also important skills for your child:

  • use and understand the proper names for the private body parts. Slang terms can be useful for your child to communicate with their peers, but the proper names should always be learned first
  • use and understand the terms that describe the things that happen during puberty. For example, periods, growing, pubic hair, voice breaking.
  • express feelings, including pain, discomfort and itching

If your child has a hearing impairment, uses sign language, uses an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device, or uses a form of non-verbal communication, these skills are all still important. It may just look a bit different to how it looks for a child who uses verbal communication. That’s OK. Each child is different, and it is important to find what works for your child and your family.

Strategies for you to try

Get comfortable talking about puberty

Supporting your child’s communication and social skills through puberty means that you need to become more comfortable talking about puberty. This includes using the correct terminology for private body parts and behaviours. E.g., penis, breasts, vagina, masturbation. This may be a bit awkward at first, but using the correct terminology will help to minimise the confusion that can happen when different people use different slang words.

The more comfortable you are in talking about puberty to your child, the more comfortable they will be to talk to you about puberty.

Model good communication and social skills in your conversations

Modelling good communication and social skills in your conversations helps to show your child how they can be a good communicator.

This can include modelling things like:

  • sharing
  • turn-taking in conversation
  • asking consent (e.g., consent to go to a friend’s home or touch their belongings)
  • respectful disagreement

You can model this in your conversations with your child and your conversations with other people as well.

You could also record a video of yourself or your child modelling good communication and social skills. Your child can then re-watch the video as many times as they need to learn the skill. This is called video modelling and can be particularly useful for children with autism who may find face-to-face social situations confronting.

Create opportunities for your child to practice their communication and social skills

Support your child to practise using their communication and social skills at home by involving them in family conversations.  You can focus on the key skills that your child needs to work on. Praise them for things they did well. Repeat key messages for things that still need improvement.  As their skills develop, they can practice in more diverse and difficult situations.

You can also talk to your child’s teachers about how they can reinforce the same messages in the classroom.

Use resources to communicate about puberty

There are many different types of resources for children to help support their learning about puberty. Some are also made specifically for children with intellectual disability and/or autism spectrum disorder. These resources will often use more concrete language and have lots of visual in them. Here are some resources you might want to have a look at.

  • Special Boys’ Business
  • Special Girls Business
  • Puberty and Special Girls
  • What’s Happening to Tom?
  • What’s Happening to Ellie?
  • BodyTalk


Think about the type of resource that works well with your child, and use it to help start a conversation about puberty.

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Introduction to puberty for girls
Communication & social skills

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