A language disorder affects a child’s ability to understand the meaning behind verbal and/or nonverbal language. Pragmatic language disorders specifically affect a child’s ability to understand how language is used in social contexts. This is also known as a social communication disorder. These children may have large vocabularies; however, are unable to functionally use the vocabulary. The child may be able to communicate effectively one-on-one with people they know well, but struggle to communicate and understand others, especially when in a group setting.
Pragmatic language disorders are expressed in various ways. Some signs are:
- Inability to adapt to changes in the direction or tone of a conversation
- Showing confusion when conversation switches from statements to questioning, or from questions to requests
- Doesn’t understand turn-taking in conversations
- Does not use nonverbal cues appropriately, like standing too close or too far away when speaking, failure to make eye contact, or the absence of gesturing
- Cannot recognize others’ nonverbal cues, like facial expressions, head shaking and tone of voice
- Doesn’t understand jokes or exaggeration; interpret all statements literally
What Causes Pragmatic Language Disorders?
As with many other disorders and language learning problems, we don’t know why some children have them and others don’t. Pragmatic language delays are commonly associated with autism, but it’s important to note that they often occur independently of ASD.
There is no known prevention of a pragmatic language or social communication disorder. But there are treatments! A speech-language pathologist at Carlin Speech will teach your child how to spot and reciprocate communication cues, build up conversation skills and bring out the best communicator in your child.