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What is Social (Pragmatic) Communication Disorder?

Updated: 4 days ago

Social Pragmatic Communication Disorder impacts a student's ability to communicate socially with others

Social (pragmatic) communication disorder impacts an individual’s ability to use language to interact with others. Pragmatic refers to the social use of language and includes a wide range of actions, as well as how an individual interprets another’s communication. Communication can occur in a variety, mainly verbal (e.g., what is said) and nonverbal (e.g., what is communicated without words). Verbal communication is often easy to identify, it’s what is actually said. Nonverbal communication can be more nuanced, it’s what is shared through tone of voice, facial expression, body language, hand movements, and eye contact. This means that someone with social (pragmatic) communication disorder may have differences in their ability to understand what someone is saying, use and understand gestures, and “read between the lines” of what is being said. An individual with this pattern of differences may have a difficult time understanding sarcasm or when someone is teasing versus intentionally being mean. These differences can also make it difficult for someone to engage in a back-and-forth conversation and, subsequently, make friends.


Your child may have social (pragmatic) communication disorder if they have difficulty:

  • Greeting others

  • Sharing what they know with those around them in a direct way

  • Knowing when something is implied, but not directly stated

  • Understanding euphemisms or figurative language (e.g., “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse)

  • Changing how they speak in different situations and/or with different individuals

  • Telling a story

  • Trouble making and/or keeping friends


Currently, the cause of social (pragmatic) communication disorder is not clearly known. Treatment for social (pragmatic) communication disorder tends to include working with a speech and language pathologist and/or participating in social skills training.


Want more information?


Child Mind Institute has more information about Social (Pragmatic) Communication Disorder, communication in general, and treatment.


Contact us with questions or to schedule an evaluation to help identify social communication differences. If you have concern about your child's communication in general, not just socially, please contact your pediatrician!

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