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Social (Pragmatic) Communication Disorder


Social communication disorder is a newly recognized disorder. Its main symptoms are problems understanding and using language for social purposes (for example, having conversations and telling stories). Children with social communication disorder may have difficulty with

  • Understanding and applying the different “rules” to different social situations (for example, that you talk differently in a classroom and on a playground).
  • Interpreting and using nonverbal  communication, (eye contact, gestures, and facial expressions)
  • Difficulty with inference (things that are understood but not directly stated), humor, metaphors, and words that have more than one meaning


An interdisciplinary team that includes a speech-language pathologist (SLP) can determine if your child has a social communication disorder. Other members on the team include the parents/caregivers, teachers, pediatricians and medical professionals, and psychologists. If you have concerns about your child’s social communication, start by talking to your child’s pediatrician or school team. They can help you find the best way to get your child evaluated. Many school teams can do a social communication evaluation. When that is not possible, a child may be referred to a SLP with specialized training in the evaluation of social communication disorders. During an evaluation, the SLP will ask questions and interact with your child to determine how he or she understands and uses language for social purposes. The SLP may play with your child or engage in structured activities to learn how he or she understands and uses language in different situations.

Associated Developmental and Learning Difficulties

Children with social communication disorder may have problems making friends, participating in social activities, and navigating school and other settings.


There are many evidence-based supports and interventions for children with social communication disorder. Specific treatment approaches will depend on the individualized needs of each child. A SLP can work with a child to support development of social communication skills, but also with the family and teachers to develop strategies to support your child’s social communication. It is important for interventions for social communication to include opportunities for generalization of the skills to various settings and with various communication partners. 

How Many People Have Social Communication Disorder?

Because this is a relatively new diagnostic category, there is not well established prevalence data available. 


The exact cause of social communication disorder is not known.

Related Services

We do not treat children with social communication disorder as their main diagnosis; however, we do treat children who have developmental disabilities as well as social communication disorder. We provide a limited number of evaluations with a Speech-Language Pathologist for children suspected of having a social communication disorder.

URMC Collaborations

  • Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation - Provides outpatient evaluation and intense and targeted therapy programs for children and teens.
  • Speech Pathology - Meets the needs of children who have difficulties with speech, communication, oral-motor control, and feeding/swallowing.


You can find resources for social communication disorder in our Resource Directory!