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Imagine these situations:
You invited your friend over for dinner. Your child sees your friend reach for some cookies and says, "Better not take those, or you'll get even bigger." You can't believe your child could be so rude.
You talk with a neighbor about his new car. He has trouble staying on topic and starts talking about his favorite TV show. He doesn't look at you when you talk and doesn't laugh at your jokes. He keeps talking, even when you look at your watch and say, "Wow. It's getting late." You finally leave, thinking about how hard it is to talk with him.
Both your child and your neighbor speak well. What they may have trouble with is social communication, also called pragmatics. These are the rules that we follow when we talk. There are rules about when and how you should talk to people. We use facial expressions or gestures to share how we feel. We learn how to let someone know when we change the topic. Knowing and using these rules makes it easier to communicate.
Social communication includes three major skills:
Using language for different reasons, such as:
Changing language for the listener or situation, such as:
Following rules for conversations and storytelling, such as:
These rules may be different if you come from another culture.
A person with social communication problems may:
Children may break some of these rules as they learn. If your child has a lot of problems with these rules, he may have a social communication disorder. He may also have other speech or language problems. He may have trouble talking with others or making friends.
A speech-language pathologist, or SLP, helps people with social communication problems. The SLP can test speech and language skills. The SLP can then help your child learn how to use language with different people and in different situations.
See ASHA information for professionals on the Practice Portal’s Social Communication Disorder page.
Use the tips below to help your child.
Ask questions or make suggestions to help the person use language in different ways.
|What You Want Your Child To Do||Suggested Question or Comment|
|Comment||"What did you do?" "Tell me about..."|
|Request||"Tell your friend you want to..." "What do you want?"|
Use everyday situations. Give your child chances to practice good social communication during the day. For example, practice staying on topic by talking about school. Have your child ask others what they want to eat for dinner to practice asking questions. Let your child ask for what they need to finish a project.
Role-play conversations. Pretend to talk to different people in different situations. For example, have your child explain the rules of a game to different people. Show her how she should talk to a child or an adult. Or, how she would talk to a family member or a stranger.
Practice messages. Ask your child what he would say if he wanted something. Talk about different ways to present a message, such as being:
Discuss why people might be more willing to do something if they are asked in a different way.
Say something about the topic of conversation before talking about it. This may help your child stay on topic and change topics more easily. Get her to talk more about a topic by asking questions or adding information.
Use visual cues, such as pictures or objects to help tell a story in the right order.
Practice rephrasing when someone does not understand what the person means. Ask questions like, "Did you mean...?"
Show how nonverbal cues are important to communication. For example, look at pictures of faces, and talk about how the person might feel. Talk about what it means when a person’s face doesn’t match what they say. This may happen when someone smiles as they say, "Get out!"
Social communication problems can make it hard for your child to make friends or succeed at school or work. Help is available.
To find a speech-language pathologist near you, visit ProFind.