Most people have heard of a speech pathologist helping a child work on correcting a lisp or improving their Rs, but did you know that speech pathologists can help children (and adults) improve their social language skills (or pragmatics). According to the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA), pragmatic language involves three major communication skills:
1. Using language for different purposes, such as greeting, informing, demanding, promising, and requesting
2. Changing language according to the needs of a listener or situation, talking differently to a baby than to an adult, giving background information to an unfamiliar listener, and speaking differently in a classroom than on a playground.
3. Following rules for conversations and storytelling, such as taking turns in conversation, introducing topics of conversation, staying on topic, rephrasing when misunderstood, knowing how to use verbal and nonverbal signals, knowing how close to stand to someone when speaking, and knowing how to use facial expressions and eye contact appropriately.
Often times, children with pragmatic language impairments will be able to produce all of their sounds and use age-appropriate grammatical structure. This can make it difficult for parents and other adults in the child’s life to pinpoint why it is so challenging to effectively communicate with their child.
The good news is that speech pathologists are trained to be able to treat both children and adults with pragmatic language impairments. If you have concerns about these areas of language in your child, a speech and language evaluation may be the best next-step in helping your child communicate effectively and confidently with both adults and peers, in a variety of settings.