SOCIAL COMMUNICATION DIFFICULTIES

Speech Therapy for Children

Speech-language pathologists (S-LPs) play a very important role in the assessment and treatment of preschoolers, school- aged children and adolescents with a social communication disorder. Children with a social communication disorder have difficulty with:

  • Engaging in social interactions with others
  • Understanding verbal and non-verbal cues
  • Understanding someone else’s point of view
  • Telling stories
  • Expressing opinions
  • School performance such as literacy

Social communication difficulties occur in people with a distinct diagnosis such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Social Communication Pragmatic Disorder (social communication difficulties with no repetitive behaviors), social anxiety, ADHD, Severe Language Impairment (SLI) , language-based learning difficulties and more. In ASD in particular, social communication difficulties are a significant feature.

In many instances when a child comes to us for a speech and language assessment, the speech-language pathologist will screen for a social communication difficulty because a child with limited language skills is at risk for challenges with social interactions. He or she may not have the skills to express wants and needs as well as opinions and ideas which are a very important part of social communication. He or she may miss non-verbal and verbal cues (eg: sarcasm), and therefore can be at risk for bullying. Identifying emotions in themselves and others and the use of feeling words may be an issue.

Our speech-language pathologists are educated on the milestones and expectations at each stage of a child’s social communication development. The S-LP will take into consideration family and cultural differences and look at the child as a whole when determining whether there is a social communication issue. If so, therapy will be recommended.

Therapy may also involve parent training so that parents can continue practicing the skills at home between therapy sessions. In older children, in addition to one-on-one therapy, some fun activities and techniques can be used such as using YouTube and video clips to teach social communication. Group therapy is another option that provides an opportunity to practice skills in a more real life setting.

In adolescents, more direct instruction may be used. Teaching students how to initiate conversation, maintain conversation for a few turns, use a friendly tone of voice and learn to identify when someone is being sarcastic and mean vs. friendly may be some goals.

S-LPs in all instances will provide education to families, teachers and other professionals to make sure there is more generalization of skills into the real world. They play a vital role in addressing this complex issue. Like all other communication issues, early identification by an S-LP can change the trajectory of a child’s social communication growth. SLP’s can make a difference in helping a child and adolescent reach their potential in social and academic situations.

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