Accessibility Statement

Complex communication & interaction difficulties (CCI)

Some children and young people have a range of differences in the way they communicate and interact with others.  These are referred to as complex communication and interaction needs or CCI needs.

These differences can effect their learning and social inclusion and the severity can range in severity and intensity.  They may also change over time.

These differences can be divided into two broad areas:

  • Social Communication (including those with a diagnosis of Autism)
  • Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN)

It is not expected that any child or young person will match all of the descriptions below, they may experience differences from both areas of need.

For support with children or young people with complex communication and interaction (CCI needs) needs within a early years or school speak with the SENCO about what support is available.  Within Kirklees support is available from:

  • the Early Years SEN team for children aged 0-5 (EYSEND team) and
  • Kirklees Complex Communication and Interaction outreach team (CCI team) for children and young people over 5.


The EYSEND team offers inclusion provide support and advice to all early years settings (private, voluntary, independent and maintained) around young children with complex needs including social communication difficulties.

Portage provide home-based specialist teaching support to very young children with complex needs including those with social communication needs (where not yet attending an early years setting).


The CCI team meet the special educational needs of children and young people in schools with social communication difficulties including autism.  This covers all children and young people with social communication needs.


More information about these outreach services can be found on the EYSEND page or the outreach services page.


Educational Psychology Service (EP service)

Educational Psychology are part of the Kirklees Council Learning and Early Support Service and work with parents, schools and other agencies to support children and young people age 0-25.  They help school staff, parents and carers to find solutions to improve the learning outcomes of children and young people and support children and young people’s social and emotional development and wellbeing.   More information can be found on the EP Local Offer page.


You can also find information about local support groups for parents/carers on the Local Offer support groups and advice page.
  • Communication and Reciprocal Social Interaction (Social Affect)
  • Difficulties recognising that they are part of a class, group or wider social situation.
  • Social situations present challenges resulting in emotional outbursts, withdrawal, social
    vulnerability and/or isolation.
  • Poor empathy, imagination and play skills which affects social understanding and impacts on learning in subjects such as English and RE
  • Unusual eye gaze or eye contact. Facial expressions may be limited or reduced in range.
  • May not use or understand non-verbal communication.
  • Difficulties with understanding spoken language or difficulties expressing their own wishes
    and feelings (expressive and receptive needs). Speech may be delayed or unusual and may
    have an odd intonation pattern with immediate or delayed repetition (echolalia).
  • Literal interpretations of language and learning with poor understanding of abstract language.
  • Higher order language skills may be impaired, e.g. understanding and use of metaphor,
    inference and emotional language.
  • Issues with interpreting and understanding whole class instructions and general information.
  • Difficulties with the concept of time and sequencing of events significantly affect everyday
  • Difficulties with personal space. May invade others space or find close group work difficult.
    Little awareness of danger in comparison to children of their age. May ‘run’ or ‘climb’ with no regard to hazards. May be unaware of hurting others.
  • May have coping strategies that enable successful social interaction with peers. At times of stress or anxiety, however, responses will be unusual and socially awkward.
Restricted and Repetitive Behaviours
  • Anxiety to even small unplanned changes in the environment or learning tasks leading to
    reactions of outbursts or withdrawal.
  • Unusual or different behaviours or obsessions with everyday objects, people or toys. This can lead to difficulties with finishing desired activities. May display an intense interest in a topic that is explored with a high level of frequency and/or inappropriateness to context or
  • Difficulties managing transition between different environments or tasks. Routine and visual structure supports these issues.
  • Inability to maintain focus and concentration age appropriately. May be easily distracted or
    may not switch attention easily.
  • Inconsistent patterns of behaviour across a spectrum from challenging or impulsive to
    extreme passivity.
Sensory Differences
  • Unusual over or under responsiveness to sensory stimuli e.g. touch or noise which may affect access to everyday events or activities e.g. dining halls. May show signs of delayed hand/eye co-ordination and/or fine/gross motor skills or display unusual body movements such as
    flapping, toe walking, tics or unusual posturing. May eat inedible objects ‘pica’.
  • May display unusual sensory responses to the environment at times of heightened stress.
    This may present as anxiety.

Sensory differences can affect physical milestones such as toileting and eating development. These can cause high anxiety in the child/young person and those who care for them.

  • Phonological awareness difficulties (awareness of the sounds in spoken words such as
    rhyme, alliteration, and syllabification) which impact on progress in reading and spelling.
  • Speech immaturities, which impact on their ability to convey meaning, feelings and needs to others, social interaction and the acquisition of literacy. This could in turn lead to isolation and/or frustration.
  • Difficulties with listening and attention and auditory working memory that affect task
    engagement and independent learning.
  • Difficulties retaining verbal input.
  • Comments and questions indicate difficulties in understanding the main points of discussion, information and explanations.
  • Difficulties in the understanding of language for learning (conceptual language; size, time,
    shape, position).
  • Limited vocabulary, both expressive and receptive.
  • Heavy reliance on Non Verbal Communication to complete tasks (adults gestures, copying
    peers) and this may mask comprehension weaknesses.
  • Social interaction could be limited and there may be difficulty in making and maintaining
  • Behaviour as an indicator of SLCN: difficulties with independent learning, poor listening and attention, frustration, anxiety, stress, lack of engagement.
  • Difficulties with expressive and/or receptive syntax; may struggle to understand and/or
    formulate more complex sentences, despite adequate vocabulary.
  • May use a small range of learned verbal responses which mask underlying comprehension
  • May have learned strategies which enable avoidance of situations with high language
    demands (which may impact on social inclusion/developing friendships).
Last updated: 09/12/2020

Useful links

ICAN - Children's Communication Charity