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Social Communication Disorder

Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) play a central role in the screening, assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of social communication disorder in children and adults. The professional roles and activities in speech-language pathology include clinical/educational services (diagnosis, assessment, planning, and treatment), advocacy, education, administration, and research. See ASHA’s Scope of Practice in Speech-Language Pathology (ASHA, 2016b).

Appropriate roles for SLPs include the following:

  • Providing prevention information to individuals and groups known to be at risk for social communication disorder and to individuals working with those at risk.
  • Educating other professionals on the needs of individuals with social communication disorder and the role of SLPs in screening, assessing, diagnosing, and managing social communication disorder.
  • Screening social communication skills as part of a comprehensive speech-language evaluation or whenever social communication disorder is suspected.
  • Conducting a culturally and linguistically relevant comprehensive assessment of social cognition, social interaction, pragmatics, and language processing for the purpose of communication.
  • Diagnosing the presence of social communication disorder.
  • Referring the individual to other professionals to rule out other conditions, determine etiology, and facilitate access to comprehensive services.
  • Developing culturally and linguistically relevant treatment and intervention plans focused on helping the individual achieve social communication competence, documenting progress, and determining appropriate dismissal criteria.
  • Recommending related services when necessary.
  • Counseling individuals with social communication disorder and their families and providing education aimed at preventing further complications related to social communication disorder.
  • Consulting and collaborating with families, individuals with social communication disorder, other professionals, support personnel, peers, and other invested parties to identify priorities and build consensus on an intervention plan focused on functional outcomes—see ASHA’s resources on interprofessional education/interprofessional practice [IPE/IPP], person- and family-centered care, and family-centered practice.
  • Remaining informed of research in the area of social communication disorder and advancing the knowledge base of the nature of the disability, screening, diagnosis, prognostic indicators, assessment, treatment, and service delivery for individuals with social communication disorder.
  • Advocating for individuals with social communication disorder and their families at the local, state, and national levels.

As indicated in the Code of Ethics (ASHA, 2016a), SLPs who serve this population should be specifically educated and appropriately trained to do so. 

Content Disclaimer: The Practice Portal, ASHA policy documents, and guidelines contain information for use in all settings; however, members must consider all applicable local, state and federal requirements when applying the information in their specific work setting.