Social Communication Disorder (SCD) is a subtle yet distinctive speech disorder in which a person has difficulty understanding the pragmatics of conversation. This diagnosis has only recently been recognized by the American Psychiatric Association, in 2013.
Children with SCD struggle with “the unspoken, subtle rules of spoken language that allow people to connect.” (1) Many students affected by SCD have also been diagnosed with Autism, Asperger’s Disorder, Pervasive Developmental Disorders, Language Disorders or Emotional Disorders; however, SCD is certainly not limited to people with other diagnoses. Pragmatic language includes communicating in ways that are particular for a certain social context, understanding social cues and nonliterate forms of communication, and changing communication to match the context or needs of the listener. In essence, “Pragmatic Language involves knowing what is appropriate and not appropriate to communicate in social situations.” (2) Lacking these skills that sHulse, H., JD, MA, MS. “Speech and Language Services Include Pragmatic Language.” McAndrews Law Office, P.C.o many people take for granted can make attending school quite difficult for an affected student, which is why SCD is within the purview of the speech and language services covered by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
While school districts usually abide by the IDEA in providing language and speech services for students with articulation or expressive/receptive issues, they “often fail to provide much needed pragmatic language services.” Nonetheless, school districts are required to provide speech and language services for these students who struggle with Social Communication Disorder. Pragmatic language is essential in having social interactions, developing relationships, and performing successfully in one’s academic and later professional life, all of which are relevant in a child’s educational experience. As such, students with SCD are entitled to accommodations that will ensure they are received a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).
In the all-too-likely case that the school has not identified every student with SCD, parents concerned with their child’s pragmatic language skills should request an evaluation that specifically assesses areas of pragmatic language. As outlined by the terms of the IDEA, students with deficits in pragmatic language are eligible for research-based programming of speech and language services.
1.) “Understanding Social Communication Disorder.” Understood.org.
2.) Hulse, H., JD, MA, MS. “Speech and Language Services Include Pragmatic Language.” McAndrews Law Office, P.C.
3.) Hulse, H., JD, MA, MS. “Speech and Language Services Include Pragmatic Language.” McAndrews Law Office, P.C.
4.) “Social Communication Disorder.” American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.