Social Communication refers to language that is used in social situations. This refers to a child's ability to use language to interact with others in a variety of situations. Children with good social communication skills talk differently to their friends than to their teachers. They are sensitive to their listeners, take turns when communicating, and are tuned into non-verbal cues. They are able to connect emotional states to self and others; understand that others have knowledge, desires, and emotions that may differ from their own; and they are able to take the perspective of another and modify language use accordingly (This is what is referred to as Theory of Mind-ToM).

Children with good social communication skills:

  • Make eye contact when talking and listening
  • Know when it’s their turn to speak
  • Know when to start and stop talking
  • Talk about a variety of interests and take into mind the interests of the listener
  • Naturally adjust their speaking style depending on who they are talking to (parent, teacher, peer, sibling, younger child)
  • Understand the nuances of language (tone, sarcasm, humor, puns)
  • Use body language and facial expressions to communicate needs, emotion, information
  • Play cooperatively and are good with turn taking and conflict resolution
  • Have empathy

Signs and symptoms of social communication disorders include problems with social interaction (e.g., speech style and context, rules for linguistic politeness), social cognition (e.g., emotional competence, understanding emotions of self and others), and pragmatics (e.g., communicative intentions, body language, eye contact). A social communication disorder may occur alone or within the context of other conditions such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD), and Specific Language Impairment (SLI). Social (pragmatic) communication problems are a primary and defining feature of individuals with ASD. Children with ADHD usually understand what they’re supposed to do socially and have the language skills for communication; however, their inattention, distractibility, impulsivity, and nonstop movement affect interactions directly. Children with SLI or other speech impairments (stuttering or unintelligible speech) may lag behind in social communication skills for a variety of reasons.


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