Social communication disorder (SCD)

SCD is characterized by difficulty in using verbal and non-verbal language in socially appropriate ways. People with SCD have trouble understanding how meaning is created and understood in social interactions. 

SCD is also known as pragmatic language impairment. It leads to difficulty with social interactions, social cognition and pragmatics. People with SCD do not have trouble understanding the word structure, grammar or general cognitive abilities. 

Causes and risk factors:

Causes and risk factors of social communication disorder are largely unknown. However according to some studies people with family history of Autism Spectrum disorder, communication disorders and other learning disabilities might be at a greater risk to develop SCD. 

It is most commonly associated with other conditions such as:

  • Intellectual disability
  • ASD
  • Language disorders
  • Brain trauma or injury
  • Dementia

Signs and symptoms

Social communication disorder is characterized by difficulty in communicating in socially appropriate ways. 

Early signs of SCD most commonly include a delay in achieving language milestones and a diminished interest in social interactions. In addition to that people with SCD might have trouble:

  • Using appropriate greetings
  • Communicating for social purposes
  • Matching communication to the context
  • Following social rules
  • Understanding meaning behind words
  • Understanding verbal and non-verbal cues
  • Understanding tone and context in conversations
  • Initiating conversations
  • Repairing communication breakdowns 
  • Understanding information not explicitly stated (inferring/sarcasm/irony)

Variations across all areas of social communication occur when interactions occur across cultures. Differences resulting from cultural differences are not characterized as social communication disorders.

Treatment

Since social communication disorder is a relatively new condition there are currently no therapies or interventions specifically for it. However, speech and language therapy designed to improve language pragmatics is most commonly used along with social skills training. An SLP focuses on children’s verbal and non-verbal communication, as well as social skills.

Speech-language therapists, social workers, psychologists and vocational counselors might work together to build social skills. Friends and families can also work on conversation skills in collaboration with an SLP. 

How Can I Help My Child with SCD?

  • Encourage them to ask questions.
  • Read and discuss a book with your child and encourage them to ask. 
  • Talk about the thought process of the characters in the books.
  • While reading a book or watching a movie, stop at any point and ask your child to predict what is going to happen next. 
  • Use visual supports such as videos, comic strips, images to aid in conversations.
  • Play catch while repeating words or practicing routine conversation scripts at every turn.

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