What is Social Pragmatic Communication Disorder?

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What is Social Pragmatic Communication Disorder?

The use of speech in social concerns is understood as social communication. Social relations, social awareness, pragmatics, and speech processing are comprised.

The power to vary vocabulary type, take the viewpoint of others, comprehend and adequately utilize the controls for oral and nonverbal transmission, and use structural elements of speech (e.g., wording, syntax, and phonology) to perform these objectives are all instances of social communication skillfulness.

The interplay between social communication, spoken language, and written language is complex. Social communication skills are required for language expression and understanding in both spoken and written modes. Language abilities, both spoken and written, enable efficient communication in various social situations and for various objectives.

Sociocultural and individual factors influence social communication, such as eye contact, facial expressions, and body language. There is a vast range of acceptable norms within and across individuals, families, and cultures.

1. Disorder of Social Communication

Using verbal and nonverbal language for social purposes is problematic in people with a social communication disorder. Social interaction, social cognition, and pragmatics are the main challenges. In addition, the individual’s capacity to communicate shows specific weaknesses.

Follow the rules for conversation and storytelling; understand no literate or ambiguous language; and understand what is not explicitly stated. Communicate for social purposes in appropriate ways for the particular social context; change communication to match the context or needs of the listener; follow the rules for conversation and storytelling; understand no literate or ambiguous language, and understand what is not explicitly stated.

Social communication disorder can lead to various issues, including difficulty interacting in social situations, creating peer connections, achieving academic success, and performing well at work.

Social communication disorder can be a separate diagnosis or can occur with other issues, such as depression.

Aphasia; dementia; and right-hemisphere damage. Intellectual disability; developmental disabilities; learning disabilities; spoken language disorders; written language disorders; ADHD; traumatic brain injury (pediatric and adult); aphasia; dementia; and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Social communication issues and confined, repetitive behavior patterns are characteristic of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). As a result, ASD and social communication problems cannot be diagnosed together.

Prevalence and Incidence

The number of new cases of social communication disorder identified in a specific period is referred to as the incidence of social communication disorder. The number of people living with social communication disorder at any particular time is referred to as the prevalence of social communication disorder.

Because numerous studies use different populations and use conflicting or vague definitions of the illness, precise estimates of the incidence and prevalence of social communication disorder have been difficult to come by. Furthermore, given the DSM-5’s recent expansion to include the new diagnostic category of Social (Pragmatic) Communication Illness (APA, 2013), it will be essential to study and evaluate the validity of the criteria for that disorder before determining prevalence.

According to a population estimate based on a community sample of over 1,300 kindergarteners, pragmatic language impairment affects roughly 7.5 percent of children, with boys outnumbering girls by a ratio of 2.6:1.0.

Individuals with language difficulties have higher prevalence rates (23 percent–33 percent) (Botting, Crutchley, & Conti-Ramsden, 1998; Ketelaars et al., 2009).

Because social communication issues co-occur with various other diseases, more information on incidence and prevalence for those ailments with additional distinguishing symptoms and characteristics may be provided.

Symptoms and Signs

Deficits in social interaction, social cognition, and pragmatics are signs and symptoms of social communication disorder (see ASHA’s website on social communication components [PDF]).

The age of the individual, their expected stage of development (see ASHA’s resource on social communication benchmarks [PDF]), and the communication situation all influence the specific behavior affected by a social communication disorder.

2. Some of the Behavior that Is Influenced by Social Communication Disorder Includes

Telling and comprehending stories; engaging in conversation (e.g., initiating or entering a conversation, maintaining the topic, taking turns); mending communication breakdowns (e.g., rephrasing when misunderstood); repairing communication breakdowns (e.g., rephrasing when misunderstood);

Regulating an interaction using suitable verbal (e.g., prosodic) and nonverbal (e.g., gestures) signals

Comprehending others’ verbal and nonverbal signs during a conversation; deciphering cryptic or figurative language; inferring facts not expressly expressed; and forming and maintaining close connections.

There are differences in all aspects of social communication within and across cultures. However, differences in cultural norms aren’t classified as illnesses.


It is unknown what causes social communication disorder as a unique diagnosis, and however, it is frequently characterized by the specific ailment linked to it. For more information on social communication skills in these populations, visit the ASHA Practice Portal pages on Intellectual Disability, Spoken Language Disorders, Written Language Disorders, and Pediatric Traumatic Brain Injury.

Responsibilities and Roles

SLPs play a critical role in the screening, assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of social communication disorders in children and adults. Clinical/educational services (diagnosis, assessment, planning, and treatment), advocacy, education, administration, and research are professional roles and activities in speech-language pathology. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s Scope of Practice in Speech-Language Pathology may be found here (ASHA, 2016b).

SLPs Can Play a Variety of Roles

Individuals and groups at risk for social communication disorder and those who work with them will get prevention knowledge.

  • Educating other professionals about the requirements of people with social communication disorders and the role of speech-language pathologists in screening, testing, diagnosing, and managing them
  • Social communication skills are assessed when a complete speech-language evaluation is performed or a suspected social communication issue.
  • For communication, conducting a culturally and linguistically relevant thorough assessment of social cognition, social interaction, pragmatics, and language processing.
  • Identifying whether or not a person has a social communication disorder.
  • Refer the person to additional professionals to rule out other conditions, discover the cause, and make complete services more accessible
  • Creating culturally and linguistically appropriate therapy and intervention plan to assist the client in achieving social communication competency, tracking progress, and defining acceptable dismissal criteria.
  • Maintaining a current understanding of social communication disorder research and expanding knowledge of the nature of the impairment, screening, diagnosis, prognostic indicators, evaluation, therapy, and service delivery for people with the disorder.
  • At the municipal, state, and national levels, advocating for people with social communication disorders and their families.
  • SLPs who serve this demographic should be specifically educated and appropriately trained, as stated in the Code of Ethics (ASHA, 2016a).

Speech and Language Evaluation

Social communication abilities are screened when a social communication disorder is suspected or as part of a complete speech and language evaluation for anyone with communication concerns.

Competency-based instruments like interviews and observations, self-report questionnaires, and norm-referenced report measures done by parents, teachers, or significant others are commonly used in screening.


Hearing tests are performed to rule out hearing loss as a cause of social communication issues. Hearing screening is covered by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s (ASHA) Scope of Practice in Speech-Language Pathology (ASHA, 2016b). If the individual fails the hearing screening, they will need to be referred for a thorough audiological evaluation.

If the person wears hearing aids, they should be evaluated by an audiologist to confirm that they are in good working order. Then, when recommended, they should be worn during the screening (and during the comprehensive assessment).

Body structure and function issues and underlying communication and communication-related strengths and shortcomings.

Speaking or writing language problems, ADHD, or developmental disabilities are examples of co-morbid deficiencies or health conditions.

Functional communication and interpersonal relationships are examples of limitations in activity and involvement.

Contextual (environmental and personal) variables act as roadblocks or facilitators to effective communication and engagement in daily life.

The influence of communication difficulties on a person’s quality of life

Treatment Approaches

Various therapy approaches can be implemented using the treatment mechanisms outlined below.

Supplementing or replacing natural speech with aided symbols.

Computer-Based Instruction (CBI) refers to computer technology (such as iPads) and computerized programmers to teach language abilities such as vocabulary, social skills, social comprehension, and social problem-solving.

Video-Based Instruction (also known as “video modeling”) is an observational teaching method in which video recordings are used to provide a model of the desired behavior or ability. The individual watches video recordings of the desired behavior and then imitates them, and the learner’s self-modeling can be recorded and reviewed afterward.

3. Techniques and Interventions for Behavioral Change

Existing habits can be modified, or new behaviors can be taught through behavioral interventions and approaches. These methods are founded on learning principles such as identifying desired actions (for example, social skills), gradually molding these behaviors through selective reinforcement, and diminishing reinforcement as behaviors are learned.

‌Behavioral techniques can modify or teach social communication practices in one-on-one, discrete trial training, or naturalistic settings with peers or other communication partners. PBS is an example of a behavioral intervention strategy that can promote proper and successful social communication.


Peer-mediated or peer-implemented therapies ordinarily develop peers’ skills to help children with social communication disorders play and interact socially.

4. Treatments for Social Communication

The interventions listed below are aimed at improving social communication abilities.

Conversations between two or more persons portrayed by simple drawings in a comic strip format are known as comic strip conversations. The cartoons depict what individuals are saying and doing and their possible thoughts. Making the comic strip slows down the dialogue, giving the individual more time to comprehend the shared information. Conflict settlement, problem-solving, sharing sentiments and opinions, and reflecting on something can all be done via comic strip conversations.

Social Scripts are a refreshing approach for teaching kids how to utilize a variety of languages in social situations. However, as children utilize them more spontaneously, scripted prompts (visual and verbal) fade away (Nelson, 1978).

Social Skills Groups—an intervention that teaches healthy peer interaction through education, role play, and feedback. A teacher or adult facilitator is usually present in two to eight people with social communication disorders. Social skills groups can be utilized with people of all ages, from school-aged children to adults.


Social pragmatic communication disorder refers to disorders affecting a child’s ability to express themselves verbally. SCD often struggles with language development and hitting language milestones on time. Additionally, their lack of interest in social interactions and poor language use may indicate other developmental delays. To help diagnose SCD, a speech and occupational therapist may conduct an evaluation.

Treatment for SCD depends on the developmental stage of the individual. A young child will require different treatment than an adult or an adolescent. For example, SCD may prevent children from making close friends in younger children. As the condition progresses into adulthood, it can lead to difficulties in romantic relationships. Behavioral interventions and speech and language therapy aim to teach children to engage in social interactions and develop their ability to communicate verbally and nonverbally.

The symptoms of SPCD may include a lack of sociability, apathy, and a tendency to avoid social situations. During childhood, this disorder can lead to problems in the family. Fortunately, treatments for this condition can help people overcome their social struggles. They can even work with their parents to help them make friends, learn new skills, and improve their self-esteem. If you have a child with SCD, it’s vital to have the condition diagnosed by a speech pathologist.

A social pragmatic communication disorder is characterized by poor pragmatics. A person with SCD has difficulty adjusting their communication based on the context. For example, a young child with SCD may respond minimally to social overtures and rarely initiate social interactions. As a child grows, these skills may develop very early age. However, the disorder can be treated in a variety of ways.

As of 2018, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association recommends evaluations in various settings, including interviews with teachers and caregivers. A formal one-on-one test will assess your child’s language pragmatics and socialization. The treatment of SCD depends on the severity of your child’s symptoms and the nature of the underlying disorder. A doctor can help you identify the symptoms of SCD and recommend the right course of action.

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