In this article we discuss our work on visual cues (such as hand gestures and eye gaze) in children's communication. We describe evidence showing the facilitatory role of such cues as well as their cognitive impact. While face-to-face signals are often beneficial to communication, they carry a cognitive load which children and adults avoid under certain conditions, by averting their gaze. Indeed under certain circumstances there is a measurable and observable cognitive cost associated with looking at faces. So when thinking, especially about cognitively demanding material, we often avert our gaze from the face of our interlocutor or other potentially distracting aspects of the visual environment (Glenberg, Schroeder, & Robertson, 1998; Doherty-Sneddon, Bruce, Bonner, Longbotham, & Doyle, 2002; Phelps, Doherty-Sneddon & Warnock, 2006). Reasons why we might look away from faces in particular are that they are 'capturing', hard to ignore and physiologically arousing (e.g., Langton & Bruce, 2000; Beattie 1981). Gaze aversion (GA) develops over the early primary school years; and young typically developing children can be trained to use gaze aversion to optimise their problem solving performance. In our most recent work we have begun applying our gaze aversion paradigm with atypical populations for example: children on the autistic spectrum; children with ADHD; and young people with Williams syndrome. Gaze aversion promises to provide new and important insights into the cognitive and social functioning of atypically developing children. We conclude that gaze aversion is often an adaptive response to cognitive load and indicative of internal processing effort.