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  • Writer's pictureGeorge Marge, M.S. CCC-SLP

Four Ways Speech Therapists Can Help Children with Pragmatic Language and Social Skills

In this post-COVID-19 era, one area in which many children are lagging behind is in the ability to interact appropriately with others. Speech therapy can help many children in this area by addressing pragmatic language and social skills. Since speech therapists are experts in all aspects of language, they have also received extensive training in pragmatic language. So what exactly is pragmatic language? Pragmatic language is the use of language in social contexts, and encompasses many factors. Four ways speech language pathologists can help children’s social language are improving conversation skills, helping children to read nonverbal cues, understanding tone of voice and taking the perspective of others. Let’s look at each of these four areas to see how a speech therapist can help.

  1. Conversation skills-Many children have difficulty starting conversations, keeping them going, switching topics and ending them. In speech language therapy, we can provide strategies and practice in all of these areas to help children master the art of conversation.

  2. Reading nonverbal cues-During the COVID-19 pandemic, many children did not get a lot of experience developing the ability to read facial expressions as everyone was wearing masks. The ability to read facial expressions, gestures, and postures is an incredibly important aspect of interacting with others. We often rely on reading these cues to understand how someone is feeling in general or reacting to something we did or said. Speech language therapy can train children to read these cues and how to respond appropriately.

  3. Tone of voice-Children with autism or auditory processing disorders may have difficulty understanding the meaning behind the tone of voice a teacher, parent or friend is using. Speech language pathologists can train children to comprehend various vocal inflections and understand that it is not just the words that are said, but how people say them.

  4. Perspective taking-This is one of the most important aspects of social interaction. Children with autism, ADHD, or Social Pragmatic Communication Disorder often experience difficulty understanding that while we are thinking about others, they are thinking about us. Although this skill does not seem to be innate in some children, it certainly can be taught effectively. The ability to take the perspective of others affects how we converse with others, how we understand their feelings, how we negotiate situations, how we solve social problems, and even how we anticipate the questions a teacher may ask on a test!

Speech and language therapy is an effective way to address all aspects of social communication. If you feel your child is struggling with social interactions, seek out the help of a licensed speech language pathologist certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).

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