Social Pragmatic Disorder vs Autism: What's the Difference?

Social Pragmatic Disorder vs Autism: What’s the Difference?

Despite similarities, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is not Social Pragmatic Communication Disorder (SCD). SCD first appeared in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual in 2013. SCD is a newer discovery and the symptoms of ASD and SCD are similar, even overlapping, yet different.

A person struggling with SCD may have trouble with tones or sharing their thoughts. Speech-language therapy is a main part of treatment. Speech, nonverbal communication, and social cues are the most common problems for individuals.

People with SCD will have trouble understanding the meaning of their interactions. Individuals with autism will experience symptoms common of SCD and have other symptoms.

If you suspect someone you love has SCD, keep reading. This article will outline the signs and treatments of SCD. To learn more about it, let’s start with how it gets misdiagnosed.

Diagnosing SCD vs. ASD

There are many ways to separate Social Pragmatic Communication Disorder from autism. Visits to doctors and speech pathologists will be necessary. Hearing tests and other screenings ensure the person is not misdiagnosed.

People with autism repeat certain behaviors and have disruptive behaviors. Individuals with SCD will not display these behaviors. People with SCD struggle to adjust their communication based on the specific situation.

Collecting information from parents, teachers or significant others is an ongoing process. Interviews, questionnaires and personal observations are examples of the type of information needed. A look at family medical history will provide insight in making an assessment.

ASD Specific Behavioral Signs

There are some consistent signs shared among those along the autism spectrum. Here are the most common:

  • Twirling, jumping, rocking, flipping the hands, headbanging, and other repetitive behavior.
  • Obsession with putting things in order or items having a certain placement.
  • Extreme fixation on rituals and routines.
  • Repeating of sounds, syllables, words and/or phrases in excess.
  • Very preoccupied with specific objects or subjects.
  • Odd responses to sensory stimulation, especially sound, and visual chaos.
  • Doesn’t take part in pretend or make-believe activity.

SCD Behavioral Signs

In comparison, there are some Social Pragmatic Communication Disorder-specific signs. They differ slightly from ASD, but here are some important distinctions:

  • Not responding to people in a way that is understandable.
  • Interrupting others during conversation.
  • May not use gestures such as waving and pointing.
  • Difficulty expressing feelings and emotions.
  • Changing the topic or losing track of what is being discussed.
  • Difficulty using words as needed to make conversation.
  • Trouble making friends and maintaining friendships.
  • Delays in speech or language development which can even include disinterest in talking.

Treatment of SCD and ASD

There are many different types of treatment available. Speech and language therapy is very helpful in the treatment of people with either SCD or ASD. Early diagnosis is also great because it gives the person a headstart.

Social Pragmatic Communication Disorder Treatments

Bear in mind many of the treatments for SCD are also helpful in the treatment of ASD. Treatment should focus on improvements in functional communication skills specific to social situations. A focus on the individual’s needs will also need to take precedent.

Develop tools that will be most beneficial in the person’s daily engagements. In some cases, scripts help the person handle common conversations. These can help identify weaknesses and practice overcoming social roadblocks.

Social interactions need encouragement within and outside of observable settings. A therapist can train family members on a variety of strategies to help with engagement.

Involvement of school staff is likely the best route for children. This will ensure practice and feedback in a variety of social situations is taking place. It’s also important to prevent any bullying situations.

Autism Spectrum Disorder Treatments

Trial and error, a great team of people and patience will be necessary to properly treat ASD. There are four categories of treatment when dealing with autism.

Treatment of Behavior and Communication

Approaches that help involve structure, organization, direction, and family participation. Below are some specific treatments.

  • Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is popular. ABA comes in several forms but generally speaking, involves tracking and measuring behaviors. Promotion of good behavior and discouragement of bad behavior is the general goal.
  • Developmental, Individual Differences, Relationship-Based Approach (DIR) or floortime is another form of treatment. DIR focuses on the development of feelings and relationships. It works for peers, caregivers or family. How the child deals with sensory stimulation like smells and sounds is also addressed.
  • Occupational Therapy teaches everyday skills. Independence is the goal here. Focus can be on getting better at eating, bathing and understanding others
  • Sensory Integration Therapy helps the person handle things like sights, sounds, and smells. This form of therapy is good for people that struggle with touch or noisy environments.
  • Speech Therapy helps to improve a person’s communication skills. This therapy will help the person develop the style of communication best suited for them. Some people may be better at using pictures to communicate or gestures rather than words.

Dietary Approaches

Consult a doctor before trying a dietary approach. Methods used include removing foods that contain gluten, milk, soy and/or sugar from the diet. Vitamin supplements fill in any nutritional gaps and can increase cognitive performance.

There isn’t much scientific support for this method, unfortunately.


There are medicines that can help with some of the symptoms of ASD. Medication that helps with an inability to focus or even high energy levels may be quite helpful.  Medicines treating seizures and depression have also been effective.

Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Several treatments falling under this category also fall under dietary approaches. Consult a doctor before beginning any form of alternative medicine or complementary treatment.

Epsom baths, gluten-free diets, and use of natural home products are good practices. These practices have come under controversy because they lack scientific support.

The More You Know

We know this can be a lot to take in. Hopefully, this article has helped with understanding Social Pragmatic Communication Disorder. You may have more questions about SPCD and we’re here to help.

You may even be ready to begin treatment for your child or even a person you provide care. Take a moment to look over our online speech therapy services.

You can always find updated information available on our website. Contact us if you can’t find what the answers on our page. The more we know about SPCD, the better the quality of life we can provide.

Speech activities that promote communication skills in adults with Autism and Aspergers

Speech activities that promote communication skills in adults with Autism and Aspergers

Maybe you’re thinking it’s too late for you or a loved one diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to get help with their speech.

You’ve heard it’s about time to grow out of it, or that the prime time for language learning is over.

They echo these excuses.

While these misconceptions are completely understandable, you might not know that there are thousands of studies suggesting the contrary.

In fact, there are probably more options for you than you’re aware of.

Therapy is often considered unattainable in certain geographical or financial circumstances, which is the beauty of online speech therapy for autism.

Not only is online speech-language pathology proven to be as effective as in-person, it’s also using cutting-edge techniques to be a positive influence to adults of all ages and backgrounds.

Read on to learn about how we’re using four speech therapy activities to transform lives.

Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)

PECS is historically one of the most effective activities performed for both children and adults on the spectrum.

This is because it can aid someone throughout all stages of their development, from recognizing basic objects to forming intelligible sentences.

Typically beginning with object recognition, it enhances nonverbal communication skills which can be associated with words in the future.

Let’s say we have a speech-language pathologist (SLP) named Sally.

Communicating live with Sally, you might identify an apple when she shows you a picture of an apple or vice versa. Sally knows that this practice aids the recognition of symbols and their association with real objects.

Once you’ve got a knack for that, you might go onto some form of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), where you would learn to talk without speaking in some form.

This can extend to answering basic questions she asks, such as “Do you like apples?” or “Do you like pineapple on pizza?” (hint: the answer is no).

That skill is actually incredibly important. Did you know studies have shown that children diagnosed with autism will often learn to say yes or no correctly in certain contexts, but cannot answer properly in others?

In other words, if Sally asks “Are you an adult?”, someone with ASD may not know how to respond to that, having only been conditioned to certain kinds of yes or no questions.

For such reasons, PECS and AAC in a wide variety of contexts play a huge role in autism speech therapy.

Imitating Rhythm

Music and language are highly interconnected. They’re so similar that we often play a game of “chicken or the egg” with them.

Since music plays such a large role in the development of language, music therapy has been prevalent in the science of speech therapy.

While working with children on the spectrum, imitating animals noises is a popular activity because it’s important, easy, and enjoyable.

The exact same logic applies to adults in all realms of music.

When we hum or babble in a particular rhythm, it expresses similarity to the sing-song intonation of language.

Reinforcing the musicality of language not only advances understanding but naturalizes the flow of words.

Sensory Integration as Speech Therapy for Autism

If hearing or vision processing are impaired, you can bet language will be out of whack as well.

As these disruptions are prominent among people diagnosed with ASD, learning to speak and write can be frustrating.

This is especially horrible when sensitivities arise towards particular frequencies.

Sometimes you can’t hear a sound at all. Sometimes a simple stirring or rubbing can induce overwhelming.

An inability to hear a particular phoneme (language noise) hinders the processing of it whatsoever.

Fortunately, speech-language pathologists are specially trained to overcome these barriers.

Right on, Sally. With the advantage of modern technology, she can use white noise to muffle the noise and thus reduce the intensity.

On the other hand, she could use warning signals to indicate a certain sound is coming.

All of this can help you adapt to and fine-tune sounds, which in turn fine-tunes language.

Semantic Therapy

It’s not just semantics. The way we use “semantic” here really matters.

“Semantics” refers to the meaning of words in a literal, contextual, or relative sense.

In semantic therapy, our focus isn’t necessarily literal definitions, but on function (i.e., how do you use it?) and association (i.e., what does it go with?).

Although someone on the spectrum may get a wonderful grasp of words, it’s likely that they may not understand the connotation of the words they’re using very well.

It’s been shown that a common symptom of the spectrum is struggling with expressing social cues, feelings, attitudes, values, or perceptions.

And it goes both ways. Recognizing these mental states in others is a different steep.

It’s not a whole other mountain, though.

By training the visual-auditory processing of different words in the sense of their category, usage, and implied meaning, the natural expression of empathy can burst forth more freely.

One example activity is semantic mapping, where the SLP and their student create a diagram of a sentence or conversation.

Not only does this let the individual actually see the conversation–as people with ASD are highly visual learners–, they can diagnose how they’re doing socially.

Do they need to ask more questions, or even more relevant questions? Are they using words properly? Are they fully expressing their emotions?

These are the problems we tackle with semantic intervention.

Thoughts on the Future

Our professionals are thoroughly trained in today’s most effective speech-language therapy procedures, but only time will tell what will come about in the future.

As research builds up, we pursue greater heights for people with autism of all origins.

Rest assured, however, you can rely on us at the forefront of online speech therapy for autism, always seeking out the latest, most substantial tactics.

No matter the regional, financial, or physical circumstance, we’re here to help you.

It’s not too late.

And now it’s never out of reach. Schedule an appointment for a free consultation or drop us a message today.

Is Speech Therapy for Autism Effective?

Is Speech Therapy for Autism Effective?

Autism speech therapy can help you or your child become better communicators over time. It is also proven to enhance social skills, attention to detail, and make better learners.

To learn more about how autism speech therapy can help you or your loved ones, keep reading this article.

The Affect Autism Has on Speech

The development of communication in autistic children is slower than it is in others. In fact, they don’t find mimicking or imitation natural like children without autism.

When children are young, they learn by mimicking and imitating the adults around them. This helps them understand the basics of communication which eventually turns into forming full sentences.

Autistic children, however, don’t learn a language this way. Instead of becoming interested in the way other people are communicating, they are more likely to pay close attention to environmental or background sounds. This can include sounds like a vacuum running or a fan blowing.

Additionally, autistic children might seem disinterested when you speak to them.

Not every autistic child communicates the same way. For instance, some may have really great vocabularies and speak in long sentences.

They often understand social cues like tone, body language, and facial expressions in social situations. Speech therapy can help both autistic children and adults become better communicators.

Benefits of Autism Speech Therapy

Speech therapy can help people with autism become better communicators. This is accomplished when a pathologist or occupational therapist teaches verbal skills they hadn’t picked up on at an early age.

Speech therapy can also help with the correct use of words and improving the rhythm and speed of speech.

Here are other ways that seeing a speech therapist is a beneficial treatment for autism:

It Teaches Spontaneous Communication

The first step in helping someone with autism is to make sure they are able to functionally and spontaneously communicate their needs. This involves the person being able to express what they want or need without being promoted or asked first.

There are a few different ways a speech therapist will go about establishing spontaneous communication. They include using sign language, picture communication, and a voice output AAC device.

Sign Language

Autistic children benefit greatly from using their own bodies to communicate. It’s even been said that sign language gets helps autistic children utilize verbal communication quicker than they typically would.

Picture Communication System

Sometimes using photos is the best way for an autistic child to learn how to communicate. Pictures make communication tangible and concrete for them.

Voice-Output AAC Device

If your child isn’t speaking at all, an AAC device can help them get started. The device will play a recorded message when a child presses a button.

What it says depends on the button they press.

Social Instruction and Interaction

Once a child has begun communicating, it’s important to help them do better in social situations. This will also involve learning what behaviors are socially acceptable, like manners and waiting their turn to talk.

These skills are especially important when children are in school and learning how to become a good friend. Some of the social strategies that might be included with your child’s speech therapy are:

Visual Supports

Visual supports use photos and other visual reminders to help a child remember how to respond in certain situations.

Social Stories

In this part of therapy, books are typically used to teach a child about appropriate behavior. The books that are selected will be targeted to the correct age range and reading level.

Video Support

The video part of speech therapy allows students to watch videos that teach expected behaviors and what to do in common social situations.

Peer Interactions

Since it’s difficult for children with autism to interact one on one with their peers, it is something that has to be taught. Peer interactions are dependent on the child’s age and where they are socially.

When children are young, they will learn:

How to Play Nicely

Just as children without autism often have to be told to play nicely and share their toys, autistic children have to receive the same lessons. Just in a more formal environment.

The primary goal here is to learn how to get along with other kids.

Recognizing Their Name

This is a little-known fact about autism. It can be difficult for a child to understand his or her own name and how to respond when it is called.

So, it’s a skill they are taught during therapy.

Paying Focused Attention

Earlier we mentioned that children with autism tend to pay more attention to environmental and background noises than they do with people speaking. Their speech therapist will help them tune out other sounds and become more focused when someone is talking to them.

Older children will be taught peer interaction with these methods:

Targeted Conversational Skills

It’s easier to pinpoint the specific conversational problems an older autistic child is having. This will allow better communication with their peers and adults too.

Perspective Talking

Perspective talking helps children learn how to put themselves in somebody else’s shoes. It makes them understand that there is more than one perspective and more than one side of the story.

This creates an environment for open-minded communication.

Parental Support

It’s a big misconception that an autistic child is the only one who should receive training from a speech therapist. Yes, it’s true that the child should have plenty of time for therapy, but it is also important for the parents and other adults in the child’s life to help the child implement the new things they learned.

When the speech therapist is able to train the adults who care for a child, they will make quicker progress. This is because they are getting individualized support and practice from multiple sources.

This will also allow the child to practice their new skills in a more natural comfortable environment for them like their home. The setting of a therapy room or classroom can sometimes feel a little formal causing anxiety.

Contact Us

Autism speech therapy varies based on the patient’s individual needs. Some people may have more advanced communication problems than others.

Whether you are looking for a method of speech therapy for an adult or child, our specialized online programs can help you. Just contact us today and we’ll help you get started.


Ten Top Tips for Promoting Language in Children with Autism

The diagnosis of autism often comes with the five-letter disclaimer: NEVER

Your child will NEVER speak, NEVER go to college or NEVER hold a job.

My experience as speech therapist has proven otherwise.

While there are never any guarantees in life for any child, the word NEVER should never be used. The world is changing. New therapies are emerging. New Muppets are promoting acceptance. New success stories are being shared.

Here are our top ten tips from our Great Speech therapists for promoting language development and communication:

  • Journal their journey. In the course of the journey, we often forget where we started and are easily distracted by unmet goals rather than progress. By journaling the process, we can create a visual map of progress without losing sight of the end goal.
  • Repeat and reinforce. Repeat and praise every single sound your child makes. Then use that sound, for example, “dad” to expand to Daddy, dog, and down. Keep repeating and expanding. It may sound repetitive to you, and maybe even boring, but repetition can be ultimately rewarding.
  • Speak less. While this may sound counterintuitive, bombarding a child on the spectrum with long sentences can be overstimulating and make it difficult to imitate. Try saying “Big Ball” rather than saying “Here is the Big Ball.”
  • Use visuals. As therapists, we find using visuals to explain concepts like first and last, aka sequencing, or even to map out a daily schedule, concepts and ideas, enhances learning.
  • Let your child lead. When it comes to a game, let your child choose what to play, where to play and with whom to play. Then interject your own language-related goals to add dimension to the activity.
  • Confine for Contact. Use a high chair or booster for as long as possible. Buckle your child in to promote face-to-face communication, strong eye contact and increase focus and attention. If feeding is an issue, use two separate chairs, one for feeding and one for “other” so the negativity associated with food does not interfere with the chances of “other” successes
  • Computers facilitate connections. As the founder of Great Speech, I have seen firsthand the all-around benefits of online vs .traditional speech therapy. But the use of technology is especially effective with children on the spectrum, who often have a natural affinity for computers rather than people.
  • Include your child in the conversation. Our training and experience has proven how much children understand even when they do not speak.
  • Join in speech therapy sessions whenever possible. The carryover of skills and strategies from the practice sessions are essential for success.
  • Enter their space. Every child has an ideal personal environment which, when identified, can be a major factor in creating expectations for personal progress. Finding that personal zone is a challenging task. Experiment with the pitch of your voice, facial expressions, gestures, noise levels and animation until your find the combination which elicits the most response.


The tips are NEVER-ending. Are there any additional ones which have worked for you?