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Social Communication Disorder - Facts and Information

  • Date: 2014/03/22 (Rev. 2015/01/16)
  • Disabled World - Disabled World
  • Synopsis : Information relating to social communication disorder characterized by difficulties using social language and communication skills.

Main Document

A child or teen with the disorder will experience difficulties with following the usual social rules of communication, whether they are verbal or non-verbal, following the rules for storytelling, conversation, and changing language depending on the situation or the needs of the listener. The issues with social communication can lead to children and teens having a hard time with communicating effectively with others, participating in a social manner with others, and may affect their academic performance.

Defined as "the synergistic emergence of social interaction, social cognition, pragmatics (verbal and nonverbal), and receptive and expressive language processing" (Adams, 2005, p. 182). Social communication disorders may include problems with social interaction, social cognition, and pragmatics. A social communication disorder may be a distinct diagnosis or may occur within the context of other conditions, such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), specific language impairment (SLI), learning disabilities (LD), language learning disabilities (LLD), intellectual disabilities (ID), developmental disabilities (DD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and traumatic brain injury (TBI). Other conditions (e.g., psychological/emotional disorders and hearing loss) may also impact social communication skills. In the case of ASD, social communication problems are a defining feature along with restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior - www.asha.org/Practice-Portal/Clinical-Topics/Social-Communication-Disorders-in-School-Age-Children/

The disorder is usually diagnosed by the time a person is five years old because most children should have adequate speech and language abilities by that time. The specific symptoms of social communication disorder include:

  • The onset of symptoms is in the early developmental period.
  • The deficits result in functional limitations in effective communication, social participation, social relationships, academic achievement, or occupational performance - individually or in combination.
  • The symptoms are not better accounted for by another mental disorder and is not due to a general medical or neurological condition, or to low abilities in the domains of word structure and grammar, and are not better explained by autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disability, or global developmental delay.
  • Persistent difficulties in the use of verbal and non-verbal communication as manifested by all of the following;
  • Deficits in using communication for social purposes, such as greeting and sharing information, in a manner that is appropriate for the social context.
  • Impairment of the ability to change communication to match context or the needs of the listener, such as speaking differently in a classroom than on a playground, talking differently to a child than to an adult, and avoiding use of overly formal language.
  • Difficulties following rules for conversation and storytelling, such as taking turns in conversation, rephrasing when misunderstood, and knowing how to use verbal and non-verbal signals to regulate interaction.
  • Difficulty understanding what is not explicitly stated and non-literal or ambiguous meaning of language.

Suggestions for Intervention

Students with social communication disorders many times demonstrate difficulty interacting with others and functioning effectively in the classroom learning environment. They might demonstrate difficulty initiating interactions, using language effectively to obtain basic needs, taking turns, and might respond inappropriately to the language of others. They often make statements that are inappropriate or rude, yet may not understand why their behavior is upsetting to other people. As a result of their behavior, they might be rejected by others in their peer group and find themselves with few friends.

Social communication deficits are common in students who have been diagnosed with autism and related disorders. Students with these deficits often exhibit inappropriate emotional reactions in social situations. They might smile or laugh inappropriately and may exhibit facial expressions that are not appropriate for the context. These students often times have difficulty expressing basic needs and trouble with using language effectively to regulate the actions of other people.

Instructional programs for students with social communication disorders need to concentrate on the functional aspects of communication. In other words, they need to learn skills such as those presented in the table below:

Skills For Children with Social Communication Disorder:

  • Taking turns
  • Sharing feelings
  • Sharing experiences
  • Expressing gratitude
  • Expressing disapproval
  • Requesting information
  • Maintaining a conversational topic
  • Ending a conversation appropriately
  • Giving greetings Initiating interactions
  • Requesting help Communicating basic needs
  • Reacting appropriately to the feelings of others

Parents should model appropriate behaviors for their children with social communication disorder and provide opportunities for their children to practice these behaviors in everyday social situations. It is important for parents and teachers to work as a team in developing strategies for improving social interactions in children with social communication disorder.

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