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

Teach adolescents to become keen observers of nonverbal language and make accurate inferences using a variety of learning methods. 


  • Detect and interpret others' perspectives correctly
  • Correctly interpret and use nonverbal language
  • Increase success in social communication and social interactions
  • Boost self-esteem by learning how to control social interactions
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** This is a Cloud E-Book that is accessible from any device with Internet access. .

The activity pages are filled with graphic organizers and interesting photos.  The lessons give students specific, clear directions and teach them to:

  • identify nonverbal language 
  • understand personal space
  • observe and accurately interpret posture, facial expressions, tone of voice, and emotions
  • tell if a group is ready for them to join in
  • observe for and use active listening

These learning strategies are used to give students practice  in interpersonal negotiation:  

  • 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 Nonverbal Language 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
  • 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).  Such children 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).
  • 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).  Intervention for adolescents with language impairments may include objectives aimed at improving deficient social communication skills (Henry et al., 1995; Bliss, 1992).
  • For students with ASD, explicit instructions to attend to facial expression and tone of voice can elicit increased activity in the medial prefrontal cortex, part of the key network for understanding others' intentions (Wang et al., 2007).
  • Only 7% of the information we communicate to others depends upon the words we say; 93% depends on nonverbal communication (Mehrabian, 1971).
  • 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).

Spotlight on Social Skills Adolescent Nonverbal Language 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.

Mehrabian, A. (1971). Silent message. 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).

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.

Wang, A.T., Lee, S.S., Sigman, M., & Dapretto, M. (2007). Reading affect in the face and voice: Neural correlates of interpreting communicative intent in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders. Archives of General Psychiatry, 64, 698-708.


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 in the context of 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

Since peer relationships are the most important to the majority of adolescents, this training resource contains content mostly targeted to adolescent concerns and peer relationships.  Each activity sheet affords a chance to highlight a specific skill and to facilitate discussing that skill with your students.  The more you personalize the activities with examples from the students' particular situations, the more effective your training will be.

Spotlight on Social Skills Adolescent Nonverbal Language unlocks the code of nonverbal behaviors that help us infer how someone feels and predict what the person might do next.  As you present the activities, teach your students to become keen observers of others, especially their peers.  How do they look when they greet each other?  How do they act?  What is interesting to them?  How do they have conversations?  What do they show with their faces?  How do they move their eyes and why?  What do they do with their hands and their bodies during a conversation?  You might need to give your students specific things to look for at a time until they become effective observers.  Keep talking with them about what they notice, guiding them to understand why their peers act the way they do.

Here are some ways to enrich your social skills training for nonverbal language:

  • Frequently assess individual students and modify your training accordingly.  Gather baseline data on specific behaviors, such as the number of times a student initiates a conversation or uses good nonverbal language to express a thought.
  • Provide specific feedback and guidance as often as possible when doing the activities in this training series.  Emphasize the positive and boost students' self-esteem by showing them they can control many of their social interactions with others.
  • Have mirrors available for students to imitate nonverbal behaviors themselves.  The more they try these behaviors, the more likely they will use them spontaneously in other contexts.
  • Play muted snippets of movies or TV dramas.  Frequently stop the action to ask what is going on and what nonverbal cues helped to make that clear.  Then replay the same snippet with the sound on.  Ask your students if the dialog has changed their impressions of what is going on.
  • Videotape your students doing and discussing some of the activities, especially the role-playing tasks.  Talk individually with your students about their performance, spotlighting what each student did well vs. what was inept or inappropriate.  Have your students repeatedly watch taped segments in which they performed well to provide personal social scripts students can then apply in similar situations.
  • Some nonverbal factors are not directly addressed within this book, yet these factors can convey important information.  Look for teachable moments to incorporate modeling and discussion of these factors:
      • voice volume, tone, pitch, and quality
      • speaking rate and style
      • laughter
      • repairing errors as a speaker
      • personal appearance (grooming and dress)
  • Present pictures from various sources and ask your students to detect nonverbal cues.  Encourage your students to verbalize how such cues help us to make inferences about what someone is thinking or might do.
  • Have your students play Pantomime, acting out statements or emotions.  As your students become more skilled, encourage them to write their own items for peers to pantomime in a game context.
  • Use the cards and activities in the Nonverbal Language Kit (LinguiSystems, 2003) to help your students identify and use key nonverbal behaviors.
  • Use caution in encouraging students to increase or change their eye contact habits.  Eye movements are largely unconscious and existing patterns may be resistant to change.  Also, some students cannot process visual and auditory information at the same time with efficiency.  Such students may need to avoid eye contact in order to get the meaning of what a speaker says, even if that means these students will miss the nonverbal cues from the speaker.

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

Carolyn and Paul