What Are Social Pragmatics?
When we communicate with others, we follow a variety of social rules and norms every day. Appropriate greetings to those we converse with, maintaining eye contact, taking turns when speaking and sticking to a particular topic during conversation are all examples of social pragmatics.
Using these conventions appropriately when communicating in a variety of social scenarios is known as pragmatic language. Pragmatic language essentially refers to the knowledge of what, when, and how to say specific things in an appropriate way. While these skills may appear to be second nature or very straightforward for most, many individuals struggle with social pragmatics and pragmatic language. When an individual struggles with these skills, holding productive and appropriate conversations with friends, family, peers, and colleagues, may be difficult, which in turn can make forming healthy social relationships difficult.
The basics of pragmatic language are modeled and taught to us beginning at a very young age, but as we get older the processes and expectations around communication increase and become more complicated. Mastering these skills requires an acute awareness and frequent practice, the same as learning any other skill. For those who struggle with social pragmatics and social communication, speech therapy can be a highly valuable resource. Get started with a speech therapist by scheduling your free introductory call today!
What is Social Pragmatic Communication Disorder?
Social pragmatic communication disorder (also referred to as SCD) is defined by frequent and repeated challenges related to the use of verbal and nonverbal language for social requirements. The most common areas of difficulty are related to social interaction, understanding others, non-verbal communication, and language processing. Common social communication skills such as the use of eye contact, body language, and facial expressions are influenced and defined by sociocultural as well as individual factors. There is a wide range of appropriate and acceptable norms across individuals, families, social institutions, and cultures.
Someone who is struggling with SCD might have difficulty understanding and producing certain tones of voice, interpreting the communication of others, or effectively sharing their own thoughts and ideas. Speech, nonverbal communication, and social cues are the most common areas of difficulty for individuals who have a social pragmatic communication disorder.
What Are the Symptoms of Social Pragmatic Communication Disorder?
Some of the most commonly observed symptoms of Social Pragmatic Communication Disorder are:
- Unresponsive or Not Responding to Others in a Comprehensible or Appropriate Manner
- Frequently Interrupting Others When Conversing
- Does Not Use Gestures (Such as waving, pointing, etc.)
- Struggles with Expressing Thoughts, Feelings, and Emotions
- Frequently Changes the Topic of Loses Track of what is Being Discussed
- Difficulty Finding or Using the Appropriate Words as Needed in Conversation
- Difficulty Forming and Maintaining Friendships
- Delay in the Development of Speech and Language Skills, Including a Disinterest in Talking in General
Is Social Pragmatic Communication Disorder on the Autism Spectrum?
While social (pragmatic) communication disorder and autism spectrum disorder have several common traits, they are separate disorders and can affect individuals in very different ways. Both ASD and SCD involve challenges related to speech, language, verbal and nonverbal communication abilities, as well as navigating social and academic situations.
The primary difference between the two is that autism spectrum disorder also involves specific characteristic behaviors, for example possessing an intense and almost obsessive focus on a specific area of interest or objects, as well as frequent repetitive behaviors. Individuals with autism spectrum disorder have difficulties with social communication as well as exhibiting repetitive, destructive, and disruptive behaviors.
Repetitive or disruptive behaviors include things like:
- Repetition of Body Movements (such as jumping, spinning, rocking, or flapping)
- Obsessive Fixation on Specific Routines and Rituals
- Arranging Objects in the Desired Order (as well as a fixation on things being in a specific order or grouping)
- Excessive Repetition of Sounds, Words, Syllables, or Phrases
- Obsessive and Intense Fixation on Certain Objects or Subjects of Interest
- Significant Sensory Sensitivities (especially to sounds / chaotic environments)
For an individual with Autism Spectrum Disorder, any disruption to their daily routine, or any affront to their senses can sometimes cause an outburst that may be violent or aggressive (towards themself or others) in their immediate environment.
If your child receives an ASD diagnosis but doesn’t display the typical restrictive, repetitive, destructive, or disruptive behaviors that are normally associated with autism spectrum disorder, having the individual reassessed for an accurate diagnosis might be a good idea. It may turn out the actual issue is in fact social pragmatic communication disorder.
Can Adults Have Social Pragmatic Communication Disorder?
SCD is more commonly diagnosed in children, but many adults also struggle with this disorder.
Adults who have been diagnosed with SCD can benefit from a wide variety of resources and supports such as life skills workshops that focus on successfully navigating challenging social situations, improving conversation skills, and accomplishing daily life tasks. Speech therapy is also highly beneficial for helping adults with SCD to improve their verbal and nonverbal communication skills, succeed professionally and socially and boost their overall confidence. Getting started with a speech therapist through Great Speech is as simple as scheduling your free introductory call today!
How Is Social Pragmatic Communication Disorder Treated?
Treatment for social pragmatic communication disorder should focus on improving the functional communication abilities that are specifically required to navigate social situations. Focusing on the individual’s specific needs and goals should always take precedent.
The speech therapist will work with the individual to identify their goals, as well as the areas that are most challenging for them. They will also work to develop tools that will be the most helpful in the individual’s daily activities and engagements. In some cases, developing scripts can help the individual to navigate common conversations. These can also help to identify areas of weakness and practice overcoming social obstacles.
Speech and language therapy can help to improve both verbal and nonverbal communication abilities and can also improve social understanding and skills for social situations.
There is a variety of areas that should be focused on during speech and language therapy sessions, including:
Speech Pragmatics: Speech pragmatics exercises can help an individual learn to understand the meanings of common phrases and idioms, as well as teach them to use appropriate greetings in various social situations.
Conversation Skills: Individuals with SCD frequently struggle with back-and-forth exchanges, (asking and answering questions during a conversation for example). A speech-language pathologist will work to engage in role-playing activities to help to develop these skills.
Non-verbal Communication: Interpreting and using non-verbal cues and expressions to gauge someone’s mood or emotions, or recognizing when someone is expressing discomfort or boredom, by repeatedly looking at their watch or a clock.
Parents and teachers can supplement speech-language therapy for children by providing ample opportunities to practice conversations and interactions between the individual and their peers. Don’t wait to seek the help of a speech therapist for yourself or a loved one. Getting started on the path to improved speech and language skills is as simple as scheduling your free introductory call today!