Brought to you by Speechmark, Talkabout is the hugely popular resources series that provides a structured programme for teaching, measuring and developing social skills.

Use the navigation buttons to discover more about TALKABOUT, including expert author Alex Kelly, Alex Kelly Ltd, and training courses & CPD opportunities.

Brand New Resource

Talkabout Sex and Relationships 1

A Programme to Develop Intimate Relationship Skills

by Alex Kelly & Emily Dennis

Talkabout Sex & Relationships 1 is a comprehensive toolkit for all therapists, educators and support staff who deliver relationship education to people with special needs. It is intended primarily to support groupwork but activities can be easily adapted to suit the needs of individuals with varying abilities.

Paperback – 2017-07-27 

New Editions

These 2nd Editions are of bestselling professional workbooks used to support educators and therapists who deliver social and relationship skills groups for children and young adults with social, emotional or behavioural difficulties.

The new editions feature full-colour illustrations and handouts, and include new introductions by Alex Kelly reflecting on her own experiences of using the resources since they were first developed.

Talkabout for Children 1

Developing Self-Awareness and Self-Esteem, 2nd Edition

by Alex Kelly

Paperback – 2017-07-05

Talkabout for Children 2

Developing Social Skills, 2nd Edition

by Alex Kelly

Paperback – 2017-07-10

Talkabout for Children 3

Developing Friendship Skills, 2nd Edition

by Alex Kelly

Paperback – 2017-07-05

Talkabout for Teenagers

Developing Social and Emotional Communication Skills, 2nd Edition

by Alex Kelly & Brian Sains

Paperback – 2017-07-11

With a new resource and editions out now, we've spoken with TALKABOUT creator and author Alex Kelly. Read what she had to say below...

For those who are unaware of TALKABOUT, can you give us a brief overview?
" TALKABOUT is a complete programme that develops self esteem, social skills and friendship skills. It is based on teaching children in group settings either in school or college but can be adapted to be used on a 1:1 basis or at home. It uses a hierarchical method of developing skills where basic or foundation skills are taught before more complicated skills."

How did TALKABOUT come to exist?
"The original TALKABOUT book came about because I was working in a FE college with a large number of young adults with intellectual disabilities and after a year of social skills interventions, and with pre and post assessments on all the students, I noticed a pattern in who was responding well to the social skills groups and who wasn’t.

It all centred around the hierarchy of self awareness coming before non-verbal skills and non-verbal coming before verbal and assertiveness coming last. I decided to put together a programme of intervention for this college based on this hierarchy and thought the name TALKABOUT was quite good! 3 years later and lots of testing and piloting, I decided it was worth publishing. Later on I noticed the link with self esteem and friendship skills so these were added to the hierarchy about 5 years later.

After that I realised that what people really want are resources that are right for a specific client group, so we started with writing a TALKABOUT book aimed at secondary mainstream children and then wrote the Primary series TALKABOUT for Children because you need very different approaches to different types of children and adults."

What separates your books from others in the market?
"There are three reasons I think make the TALKABOUT resources unique.

  1. They are the only social skills books that I know of that work through a hierarchy from self-awareness and self-esteem to assertiveness (and now sex and relationships).
  2. They are a total package with term plans which make them very easy to use in schools as they are a scheme of work designed around academic years (I am married to an ex-teacher so I know what teachers need to make it easy to embed into school life!).
  3. They are a total package, so includes all the games and worksheets to work on these skills."

What feature do you think will be most beneficial to users?
"As a busy therapist or teacher, I think the fact that each book is written with them in mind so the sessions are planned, the games are ready to make up and the books are therefore pretty easy to use."

What is the one message you want readers to take away with them?
"The TALKABOUT books have developed over 20 years to be resources that work and that children enjoy. Please don’t dip in and use activities randomly. All of my research and experience has shown me that a hierarchical approach to teaching skills is the most effective. So if necessary start at the beginning and work through for as long as you need to. In this way we are setting children up to succeed not fail."

What are the benefits of using your books in schools and private practice?
"Teachers like the TALKABOUT books because they can work as schemes of work for a whole academic year and the planning has all been done for them. Similarly in private practice the fact that it is all planned out, is obviously attractive as it cuts down on planning time."

Are there any factors or adjustments needed for TALKABOUT to be introduced into a school or private setting?
"You just need a group of people who need work at the same level or who will work well together."

How do you think your books help address SLCN?
"Many children with SLCN also struggle with their social skills and with making friends and they can also struggle with their self esteem. So even though my books are not specifically aimed at improving Speech and Language, they are often appropriate resources for children with SLCN."

What are your future plans?
"We are writing the second volume of the sex and relationships book this year. We are also doing some research into the effectiveness of TALKABOUT within schools. Finally I am busy writing my theory book on social skills which will cover all the theory behind this subject!"

The TALKABOUT programme offers:

  • a hierarchial approach to teaching social skills
  • an assessment and outcome measures
  • activities and plans of intervention
  • content suitable for all ages
  • content suitable to put onto a school curriculum
  • proven effectiveness

"The resources reflect the essential stages of social development in life. Not only do they teach the rules, they make the experience a journey of fun" - Joseph Hoyle, SLT assistant, 2017

Alex Kelly, the author of the TALKABOUT Series, is a speech and language therapist with over 30 years' experience of working with people who have difficulties with their social skills, self-esteem and their relationships. She now lectures internationally on the subject of how to assess and teach social skills, self-esteem, and friendship skills.

Alex left the NHS in 2009 and now runs her own business -  Alex Kelly Ltd - alongside her husband who was previously a teacher. Alex Kelly Ltd provide training and consultancy work, and speech and language therapy into over 30 local schools. With a team of 24 Speech and Language Therapists and Communication Fascilitators, they offer:

  • TRAINING in all aspects of Communication & Social Skills around the UK & abroad
  • SPEECH & LANGUAGE THERAPY for whole schools, or for individuals in their home or at Alex Kelly Ltd headquaters
  • SPEAKING SPACE - a Day Service for adults with autism or a Learning Disability developing independence & communication through a Total Communication approach

Explore everything the TALKABOUT Series has to offer here.

Assessing and teaching SOCIAL SKILLS by Alex Kelly

A course that gives you a MEASURABLE, STRUCTURED & HIERARCHICAL approach to teaching social skills, self-esteem and friendship skills, & answers the following:

How do we assess these skills?
Where do we start work?
How do we teach it?
How do we help students embed these skills?

How can we demonstrate effectiveness?

The following course dates are available for 2017:

13-15 March, Hampshire
25-27 April, London
23-25 May, South Wales
17-19 October, Leeds
3-5 October, London
14-16 November, Hampshire

**5-7 December, Hampshire - 'TRAIN THE TRAINER' New Course**

The course costs £295 + VAT. For enquires, please contact Alex Kelly or Amy Green

t: 02380 987134

e: [email protected]

What do others say?

"LOVE the data analysis! This will be so useful" - Emma Andrews, SLT, 2016

"This 3 day course has been life changing & the most engaging I have ever attended. I feel excited & confident in delivering Talkabout" - Sally Harper-Strong, Teacher, 2016

For more information, please visit Alex Kelly Ltd

Check out Alex Kelly Ltd on Facebook here.

Social Skills Training from Alex Kelly

High quality, practical and engaging training courses in all aspects of social skills training from 1 hour workshops to 3 day courses are available from Alex Kelly Ltd.

1 day courses are popular inset days for schools or introduction days for parents or professionals.

2 day courses cover how to develop social skills & self esteem, including how to access and plan where to start; different strategies for intervention including running group and writing stories; and evaluating effectiveness.

3 day courses includes sections on developing friendship skills and also more on using data to measure the effectiveness of your work.

For more information, please visit Alex Kelly Ltd

Check out Alex Kelly Ltd on Facebook here.

More Training from Alex Kelly

Centre of excellence approach

Alex can help you become a centre of excellence in developing social skills by providing you with on-site training and support over 12 months. To date, Alex has supported 11 schools across the UK to become cnetres of excellence. This usually takes 4-5 days.

Train the Trainer

This is a new course to train a small number of people across the UK to be local Talkabout Trainers. This is a 3 day course and is only open to people who have already attended Alex's 3 day course and who have an active role in developing social skills.

Additional topic for training

Alex also offers training in BODY LANGUAGE: the art of non verbal communication; LISTENING SKILLS; using PUPPETS & ROLE PLAY; and writing THERAPEUTIC STORIES. She also offers training in other areas such as autism, learning disability, and total communication.

For more information, please visit Alex Kelly Ltd

Check out Alex Kelly Ltd on Facebook here.


"Alex is a vibrant, energetic presenter who made me enthralled. She is incredibly generous with her ideas and suggestions. Thanks!" - Jenni Pearce, Clinical Psychologist, Sydney, 2016

"The best inset day I have been on since becoming a teacher." - David Arnott, Teacher, Hampshire 2014

"Fantastic, engaging and inspirational. I could see ideas I could use across the curriculum." - A Dunford, 2015

"This training was terrific. I feel motivated, empowered and confident. I can't wait to get my hands on those groups." - Karen GhaziTorbati, Cardiff 2016

"All in all, Alex, what a wonderful world for kids it would be if your social skills programme were in all schools across the continents." - Catherine Varapodio Longley, Parent, Melbourne, 2013


“Wow! What a super 3 days! I can’t wait to get the opportunity to put this into practice.” - Nicole Thomas, Teacher, 2017

“Thank you SO much – it’s been incredibly useful. It was informative, fun, exciting and has truly inspired me to revolutionise social skills in my school.” - Sarah Sharpe, SLT, 2017


“ I feel very lucky to work in a school where our pupils get the opportunity to utilise Talkabout resources and to see the benefit that this has made to them and their peers. You are making a difference!” – Nicole Thomas, Teacher, 2017

“All of the resources make it incredibly easy to run a session, especially with all of the structured session plans available. I find the group cohesion cards particularly great as it is another resource that does not need to be prepared.” - Hannah Anderson, Communication Facilitator, 2017

“The resources reflect the essential stages of social development in life. Not only do they teach the rules, they make the experience a journey of fun” - Joseph Hoyle, SLT assistant, 2017


“Invaluable! The data will be a real pleaser. It will also be a motivator for the staff to see that they are making a difference.” - Kelly Jones, Teacher, 2017

“So good to learn the assessment process and target setting. I feel this is a valuable element to take back to establish Talkabout as a process/result producing strategy.” - Jenny Woodford, Behaviour Therapist, 2017.

“The Talkabout Assessment wheel and incremental data for pre and post assessment is fab. Pretty much invaluable.” - Joseph Hoyle, SLT assistant, 2017

Here are a few of my top tips for making your intervention work..

I like to put any intervention into the following four-step plan before I start my group or one-to-one sessions. This will help you to work out how best to work with someone on their social skills difficulties.

Step 1: The behaviour … what is it?
Make sure that you choose the right behaviour or skill to work on first. So, having assessed the person, you need to consider the hierarchy and the complexity of the skill you want to work on with them. Ask yourself: are you setting up the person to succeed? Is the behaviour too complex?

Now consider whether the behaviour has a function or a reason. Maybe the person is behaving in this way because of an underlying problem that has not been addressed, eg a sensory need. Or they may be getting something out of the behaviour: for example, people leave them alone and they like this.

Finally, try to really describe what the person is doing – the more detailed you can describe the behaviour, the more likely you are to be able to help the person understand what they are doing wrong. You may need to add how it might make other people feel or what they may think to give them insight, although I would do this jointly with the person.

Step 2: The rules … what are they?
We need to help people to understand what they should be doing instead – what are the rules? What should be happening? So many adults I have worked with have asked me why they were never taught the rules as a child. Of course, before we can do that, we do need to know them ourselves, so that is where I hope the Talkabout resources will help you out!

Step 3: The motivation … what is it?
Every person you work with will need to be motivated at some level to come to your group, change their behaviour, and become more socially skilled. Often the key to success is to work out what the motivation is going to be for the person to want to change.

We cannot assume that all people are motivated by ‘being friendly’ or ‘friendly behaviour’ or ‘people will like me’ or ‘mum will be pleased’. It may be better to reward them with something: for example, an activity, a smiley-face chart or just saying ‘This is the polite thing to do’ or ‘This is the grown-up thing to do’. If we don’t consider the motivation, the intervention may fail.

Step 4: The strategy … which one is best?
There are many different ways of helping people to improve their social skills and usually the best intervention is the one that includes a number of them. There are eight main ways in which we can help someone.

1 The environment – in the school or at home. It is essential that the environment backs up what is being taught as much as possible. Think about getting all of the teaching staff on board with what you are working on. Making sure that everyone is encouraging and discouraging in the same way can go a long way to helping someone transfer those skills out of a group and into their everyday life. This doesn’t mean I wouldn’t work with someone if I can’t get the environment to back us up, but it may explain a slower progress. You may see people beginning to get the behaviour in certain situations but not all of them. This is OK. It shows you that the person has the ability to get it right when the environment is conducive.

2 Talk it through with them or use comic strip conversations. With many skills and behaviours, it is very helpful to talk it through with the person or to draw it using stick figures and speech bubbles. You will gain an insight into how they may describe what is happening and why it happens, which will help with your intervention.

3 Social storyTM. Carol Gray developed this approach in the early 1990s and I often use stories to help teach social skills. A social story gives someone insight into their difficulties and helps them to know what they can do instead. It also contains perspective sentences about what other people may be feeling or thinking which can be very useful for people with ASD.

4 A visual cue or schedule. It is important to remember that many people are helped by working visually, so the worksheets and activities in this book will help, but people may also be helped by a prompt card or a poster displayed in the classroom. At our Day Service, ‘Speaking Space’, in the UK, we use a lot of ‘now and next’ symbolised strips which can work well to cue people in to what is expected of them in certain situations.

5 A reward system. Rewards can help if the motivation is very tangible: for example, stickers to get a financial reward or do an activity, or a certificate of achievement. Other rewards can include a special time with someone to talk about something specific – for example, 20 minutes at the end of the day to talk to their mum about dinosaurs. Any reward needs to work for the person, so you need to refer to their motivation.

6 Use of other media. Using DVDs and clips of cartoons or television programmes, or even video clips of you modelling behaviour, can really help to teach social skills. Many people find visual methods of learning much easier and showing a video will usually motivate most people. I often use this method in groups as well as in one-to-one sessions. The Talkabout DVD includes video clips of actors modelling inappropriate and appropriate behaviours for all of the key skills covered in Talkabout (Kelly, 2006).

7 Role play and modelling. In this book I often suggest using role play and modelling to help teach skills. Modelling is when the facilitators model a behaviour, both inappropriate and appropriate, and role play is when the group members practise the behaviour themselves.

Here are a few important points to remember when modelling:

  • Keep it short and simple.
  • Model one behaviour at a time.
  • Start with bad behaviour and end with good.
  • Never use the group members to help you model behaviours.
  • Keep the situation as ‘real’ as possible – it is better to model a normal conversation between two group facilitators than to pretend that one is a child, shopkeeper or teacher.
  • Ask the group what they thought was bad about the behaviour. What should have happened?

Here are a few important points to remember when role playing:

  • The group members are asked to act a scenario or to practise a skill.
  • It is a stressful experience for some people.
  • Try a ‘getting into role’ exercise such as the magic carpet or twisting into a role like ‘Superman’.
  • Remember to de-role, especially if the group members have played the part of someone else.
  • Consider using puppets.

8 Social skills group. This is my favourite way to teach social skills and the Talkabout programme should give you all the resources you need to run a successful social skills group. The advantages of group work over one-to-one work are as follows.

  • It is a more natural and comfortable environment in which to learn.
  • We learn from each other.
  • It is easier to problem solve, play games and to set up role plays.
  • It gives the opportunity to try out new skills in a safe environment.
  • There is an opportunity to transfer skills to other staff, improving the chance of carry-over into the environment.

- Alex Kelly

TALKABOUT was first developed in the early 1990s when I was working as a speech and language therapist in London, UK. I was particularly interested in social skills but was frustrated by two aspects of my work as a therapist. First, there was nothing in the literature to guide me on where to start intervention following assessment; and second, my experience showed me that I was not always successful in what I was trying to teach and I could not always predict which children were going to improve and which were not. I set about to solve these two problems over a period of four years.

I started my investigations at a college of further education where I was working with 60 students who had a mild to moderate intellectual disability. We assessed all of the young people I was working with using an adapted social skills assessment from the Personal Communication Plan by Alex Hitchings and Robert Spence – now published in Kelly (2000). The students were involved in this assessment which gave us some insight into their own awareness of their difficulties. From these initial results, we grouped students into their main area of need: body language, conversational skills and assertiveness. We evaluated success through retesting on the original assessment and also compared students with poor and good awareness of their needs.

The results were fascinating. They showed that the students who had been working on their conversational skills progressed more if they had good existing non-verbal skills (ie body language), and students who had been working on their assertiveness progressed significantly more if they had good existing non-verbal and verbal skills.

In addition, we found that students who had poor self and other awareness struggled with all aspects of the work. From this, we established a hierarchy which forms the basis of the Talkabout resources. Over the next four years, we piloted this programme using different client groups and a group of willing therapists from throughout the UK. We all found consistently that the success of intervention increased if non-verbal behaviours were taught before verbal behaviours, and if assertiveness was taught last (Kelly, 1996).

This original hierarchy then formed the basis of the first Talkabout book (Kelly, 1996) but it has been adapted over the years to include self-esteem and friendship skills. The hierarchy now looks as follows.

Using this hierarchical approach, teachers and therapists can start work with the person at a level that is appropriate to that person’s needs. They can then progress up the levels to enable the person to reach their full potential, ensuring that basic skills are taught before the more complex ones. So a student who needs work on all areas of his social skills would start work first on his body language skills and then would progress to working on his paralinguistic skills, then his conversational skills and, finally, his assertiveness skills.

If this student also had poor self-awareness and low self-esteem, he would need to work on this before working on his social skills. And if a student also had difficulties with his friendship skills, he would only work on developing these skills if he had good self-awareness and good nonverbal and verbal skills.

Of course, success is not just about what you teach first; it is also down to how you teach it.

- Alex Kelly

New & Bestsellers

  • Talkabout Sex and Relationships 1

    A Programme to Develop Intimate Relationship Skills, 1st Edition

    By Alex Kelly, Emily Dennis

    Talkabout Sex & Relationships 1 is a comprehensive toolkit for all therapists, educators and support staff who deliver relationship education to people with special needs. It is intended primarily to support groupwork but activities can be easily adapted to suit the needs of individuals with…

    Paperback – 2017-08-01

  • Talkabout for Adults

    1st Edition

    By Alex Kelly

    Talkabout for Adults is a practical resource to help therapists or support staff to develop self-awareness and self-esteem in adults. It has been particularly aimed at adults with an intellectual disability (learning disability) or older children with special needs. It has been adapted from…

    Paperback – 2014-04-28

Discover the Series

Explore everything the TALKABOUT series has to offer, including a poster, an assessment CD, a board game, a DVD, and more practical books.


More Practical Resources

Discover the variety of Speech & Language Therapy (SLT) practical resources available through Speechmark.

More from Speechmark

We also offer resources for Special Educational Needs (SEN), Social & Emotional Skills, Early Years, and Mental Health.

Contact Us

If you are interested in purchasing or distributing Speechmark products, please contact our dedicated Sales Executive Louise Perrier at [email protected] or call +44 (0) 20 755 19109.