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Pragmatics & Social Communication

An individual may say words clearly and use long, complex sentences with correct grammar, but still have a communication problem - they may not have mastered the 'rules for social language' known as pragmatics. Pragmatic skills are important for building social relationships with other children, and involve three major communication skills:


Using language for different purposes

  • greeting (e.g., hello, goodbye)

  • informing (e.g. I'm going to get a biscuit)

  • demanding (e.g., Give me a biscuit)

  • promising (e.g., I'm going to get you a biscuit)

  • requesting (e.g., I would like a biscuit, please)


Changing or adapting language according to the needs of a listener or situation

  • talking differently to a baby than to an adult

  • talking louder where there is lots of noise

  • being aware of the listener’s knowledge and giving more information or less when needed

  • giving background information to an unfamiliar listener

  • speaking differently in a classroom than on a playground etc.


Following the 'unspoken' rules for conversations and storytelling

  • taking turns in conversation

  • introducing topics of conversation

  • staying on topic

  • rephrasing when misunderstood

  • using verbal and nonverbal language

  • standing an appropriate distance from the speaker


It is not unusual for children to have pragmatic problems in only a few situations. However, if problems in social language use occur often and seem inappropriate considering the child's age, a pragmatic disorder may exist.


Assessing your child for an Social Pragmatic Disorder

A diagnostic assessment for a Social Pragmatic Disorder may be recommended if there are concerns regarding your child's pragmatic language and/or social communication skills.

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