What is a social pragmatic language disorder?
A Social Pragmatic Language Disorder is a breakdown of the inherent understanding of underlying thoughts, beliefs, intentions, and emotional states of others. Social pragmatics is a domain of language that relates to one’s ability to think about and interact with others within and across social situations. This goes deeper than rote teaching of “social skills” or “social norms” because social situations and expectations are not black-and-white (i.e. you would speak to your friend differently than you would speak to your teacher or boss). One needs to understand and intuit the expectations of each specific social context. Social problem-solving, perspective-taking, and empathy are just some examples of social-cognitive skills that are needed for an individual to demonstrate the appropriate, expected social behaviors, no matter the context.
Pragmatics is assessed via a combination of parent report, teacher report (if available), and clinical observation. Some standardized assessment materials are available for support. A social pragmatic language disorder is diagnosed when a child’s social skills development is markedly behind that of their age-matched peers.
Training for skills to improve metacognition (i.e., thinking about thinking), executive functions (e.g., planning, organizing, initiating, following-through), social thinking, and self-regulation provides the foundation for individuals to apply functional social behaviors across environments. Intermittent peer group activities or camps may be available.