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Spotlight on Social Skills Adolescent Conversations
Ages: 11-18   Grades: 6-Adult

Simplify the many aspects of conversational skills with these lessons geared for those with autism spectrum disorders and language-learning disabilities. 


  • Detect and interpret others' perspectives correctly
  • Increase success in social communication and social interactions
  • Boost self-esteem by learning how to control social interactions
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The activity pages are filled with graphic organizers and interesting photos.  The lessons give students specific, clear directions that teach them to:

  • take turns speaking and listen apporpriately
  • use appropriate nonverbal behaviors
  • respond to conversation openers
  • initiate, maintain, and close conversations
  • handle shifts in conversation topics
  • request clarification and repair communication errors

The activities teach conversation skills with these learning strategies:

  • explicit instruction
  • modeling
  • observation
  • discussion
  • role-playing
  • other guided practice

The lessons can be presented to individual students or small groups of students.  You may purchase Conversations individually or as a 6-book set.  The 6-book set consists of:

Spotlight on Social Skills Adolescent Conversations
Spotlight on Social Skills Adolescent Emotions
Spotlight on Social Skills Adolescent Getting Along
Spotlight on Social Skills Adolescent Interpersonal Negotiation
Spotlight on Social Skills Adolescent Making Social Inferences
Spotlight on Social Skills Adolescent Nonverbal Language

Copyright © 2008

40 pages, pretest/posttest, answer key
  • Conversation partners require skills in both verbal and nonverbal interactive behaviors (Sillars, 1991).
  • Social skills intervention can improve children's social cognitive skills (Timler et al., 2005).
  • Targeted language intervention with at-risk students may result in more cautionary, socially acceptable behaviors (Moore-Brown et al., 2002).
  • Only 7% of the information we communicate to others depends upon the words we say; 93% depends on nonverbal communication (Mehrabian, 1971).
  • Intervention for adolescents with language impairments may include objectives aimed at improving deficient social communication skills (Henry et al., 1995; Bliss, 1992).
  • Students with language disorders often perform much like younger, typically-developing students on measures of pragmatic development (Lapadat, 1991).
  • In selecting remediation targets within social communication among adolescents, clinicians should consider the relative importance of various communication skills in terms of enhancing peer communication.  Communication skills involving social perspective taking (including nonverbal language) that focus on another person are more valued by adolescents than skills that focus on the speaker's thoughts or linguistics (Henry et al., 1995).
  • Children with limited language skills experience a poor quality of social interactions (Hadley & Rice, 1991; Fujiki et al., 1997; Craig, 1993; Cohen et al., 1998).
  • Children with limited language skills have greater deficits in social cognitive processing than children with typically developing language.  They have particular deficits in identifying the feelings of each participant in a conflict, identifying and evaluating strategies to overcome obstacles, and knowing when a conflict is resolved (Cohen et al., 1998).

Spotlight on Social Skills Adolescent Conversations incorporates these principles and is also based on expert professional practice.


Bliss, L.S. (1992). A comparison of tactful messages by children with and without language impairment. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 23, 343-347.

Cohen, N.J., Menna, R., Vallance, D.D., Barwick, M.A., Im, N., & Horodezky, N.B. (1998). Language, social cognitive processing, and behavioral characteristics of psychiatrically disturbed children with previously identified and unsuspected language impairments. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 39, 853-864.

Craig, H. (1993). Social skills of children with specific language impairment: Peer relationships. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 24, 206-215.

Fujiki, M., Brinton, B., Robinson, L.A., & Watson, V. (1997). The ability of children with specific language impairment to participate in a group decision task. Journal of Childhood Communication Development, 18, 1-10.

Hadley, P.A., & Rice, M.L. (1991). Conversational responsiveness in speech and language-impaired preschoolers. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 34, 1308-1317.

Henry, F.M., Reed, V.A., & McAllister, L.L. (1995). Adolescents' perceptions of the relative importance of selected communication skills in their positive peer relationships. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 26, 263-272.

Lapadat, J.D. (1991). Pragmatic language skills of students with language and/or learning disabilities: A quantitative synthesis. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 24, 147-158.

Mehrabian, A. (1971). Silent messages. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Moore-Brown, B., Sanger, D., Montgomery, J., & Nishida, B. (2002). Communication and violence: New roles for speech-language pathologists. The ASHA Leader (April-June).

Sillars, A.L. (1991). Behavior observation. In B.M. Montgomery & S. Duck (Eds.), Studying interpersonal interaction. New York: Guilford Press.

Timler, G., Olswang, L., & Coggins, T. (2005). "Do I know what I need to do?" Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 36, 73-85.



Carolyn LoGiudice, Paul F. Johnson


Carolyn LoGiudice, M.A., CCC-SLP, wrote and edited products and tests for LinguiSystems for 25 years, incorporating her previous experience as an SLP in school and clinic settings.  She is now retired and savoring time with her family, friends, and hobbies.

Paul F. Johnson, B.A., is a writer and editor at LinguiSystems.  He has a special interest in developing thinking and communication skills in students of all ages.  He also enjoys music, cooking, gardening, traveling, and spending time with his family.

Carolyn and Paul have collaborated to develop several publications, including Story Comprehension To Go, No-Glamour Sequencing Cards, and Spotlight on Reading & Listening Comprehension.


Adolescents who have not acquired appropriate social skills on their own are unlikely to develop those skills without specific instruction.  Activities in Spotlight on Social Skills Adolescent include explicit teaching, modeling, observation, discussion, role-playing, and other guided practice to spotlight specific social skill areas from different perspectives and with varying everyday situations.  These activities can be presented to individual students or small groups of students with similar skill deficits.

Before beginning any social skill training, you should evaluate each student's current performance.  Determine whether the student has a performance deficit (has the skills but doesn't use them) or an acquisition deficit (lacks the skills or the discrimination of which behaviors to use in specific situations).  The activities in this series are designed for students who need direct instruction and guided practice to acquire and master specific skills.  Use the pretest/posttest, observation, teacher reports, and/or personal interview to select appropriate lessons to present.  These are the books in Spotlight on Social Skills Adolescent:

  • Nonverbal Language
  • Making Social Inferences
  • Emotions
  • Conversations
  • Getting Along
  • Interpersonal Negotiation

Most adolescent social interaction takes place via spontaneous conversations, affording conversation partners no advance planning.  Conversation navigation requires skills in both nonverbal and verbal behaviors, so students with deficits in one or both of these areas are at risk in talking with peers, family and others.  Spotlight on Social Skills Adolescent Conversations highlights key elements of conversations in various everyday contexts to teach adolescents to engage in conversations appropriately.  These are the student objectives of this teaching:

  • learn key vocabulary for discussing conversation skills
  • take turns speaking and listening appropriately
  • use appropriate nonverbal behaviors
  • respond to conversation openers
  • initiate, maintain and close conversations
  • recognize, respond to and initiate topic shifts
  • request clarification or information as needed during conversations
  • repair communication errors during conversations
  • role-play and evaluate conversations

Here are some tips to conduct conversation training with your students:

  • Typical adolescents maintain eye contact during conversations 65% of the time as listeners and 45% of the time as speakers.  Note that eye gaze patterns are not usually consciously controlled, and therefore, may be difficult to change.  Also, be cautious about encouraging your students to use more eye contact than they can handle comfortably.  Some of them may process what they hear more efficiently when they aren't also processing nonverbal cues.  Evaluate each student's capacity for handling concurrent auditory and visual information.  Guide each student toward appropriate strategies to maximize the ability to process information during conversations.
  • Some students may think of a conversation as just a way to exchange important information about a topic.  This limited perspective may make these students hesitate to participate in a conversation if they don't know about the topic.  It may also lead them to discard small talk as pointless when, in fact, small talk is almost essential to form or enhance a relationship.  For example, suppose two students saw a movie together.  They both know what happened because they were there, but by talking about the movie later, they might learn a lot about how each of them felt about it and why.
  • Teach your students that the main impact of any conversation has much more to do with the way the partners relate to each other than what is actually said.  Does each partner feel listened to?  Do they both show their interest in each other as well as the topic?  Do they respect each other by taking appropriate turns speaking and listening?  Throughout the lessons in this book, help your students broaden their thinking about conversation types and their impact on getting along with others.
  • Before presenting a worksheet to your students, prepare them for the lesson by reviewing critical vocabulary, encouraging students to suggest their own definitions or examples.  Where these definitions or examples suggest a limited grasp of a word, help your students deepen their understanding by giving your own examples.  Demonstrate and paraphrase conversation concepts and help students relate them to their own experiences to enrich your lessons and increase the likelihood your students will master them.

We hope you and your students enjoy Spotlight on Social Skills Adolescent Conversations!

Carolyn and Paul