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Making Social Inferences


Inferencing is a term that is familiar to speech therapists and teachers. It means understanding information that is inferred or not directly stated. Let’s take an example. Look at the picture above and see if you can work out what has happened. 



Inference Pics - What's happened?


When you see this picture, you are able to pull all the pieces together and infer what has happened. You use your prior knowledge that dogs like to chew things. You find the clues in the picture; the dog, the damaged wooden door and the pieces of wood on the floor. You probably didn’t even need to consciously think about the inferences you made about the picture.


The ability to make assumptions and draw conclusions about things we see is essential for social pragmatics and daily problem-solving. We use inferencing all the time but it is actually a very complex skill. Children with learning difficulties, children with autism and adults with brain injury often have difficulty with this sort of understanding.


Pictures of real-life situations such as the one above are ideal for working on inferencing skills.  That’s why we decided to make Inference Pics


Inference Pics includes over 200 pictures in 7 activities.


Activity 1: What has happened?

Activity 2: Jobs

Activity 3: Places

Activity 4: Seasons

Activity 5 : Feelings

Activity 6: Thoughts

Activity 7 Conversations






Choose a picture and use the following Inference strategy with the child to help them to make social inferences.

  • Describe what you see.

  • Note what you know.

  • Find the clues.

  • Return to the question



How do they feel?


Example answer: "I see a boy in a stripey sweater and a grey and white cat. The boy and the cat have their mouths open and their eyes shut. I know that people close their eyes and open their mouth wide when they are feeling tired. I know the boy and the cat are feeling tired because their eyes are closed and their mouths are open. They are yawning."




Some pictures are much easier than others. For example, pictures of seasons, people with different jobs, and everyday places will likely be easier for many individuals than pictures that require some ability to understand facial expression and body language. Activities 6 and 7 (Thoughts and Conversations) are more advanced as there is much more to infer in the pictures.


Remember that the picture is the stimulus. Many children need explicit explanations in order to find the clues, understand facial expressions and body language. In some cases, they may have more difficulty due to not having prior knowledge e.g. they may not know that people yawn when they are tired or that dogs like to chew things.


Inference Pics is designed to be interactive. Together with the parent, clinican or teacher, the child will develop the ability to find clues in the pictures, develop their understanding of facial expression and body language and their ability to make social inferences. Inference Pics is available for $14.99 on the AppStore and the Google Play Store. Try the lite version for free.