Search This Site


Pragmatic Language Impairment in Kids on the Autism Spectrum

"Any tips on how to help my high functioning child who has problems making friends, mostly because he initiates conversations that are off-topic or one-sided? He also has problems following conversations from others - so he reverts back to his topic of interest (make sense?)."

Pragmatic speech is language used to communicate and socialize (e.g., knowing what to say, how to say it, when to say it, and generally how to “act” around others during conversation). Many children with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) have difficulty using language in various social situations – even though they may have large vocabularies and are able to speak in full sentences that are clearly articulated. These “special needs” children may say words clearly and use long, complex sentences with correct grammar, but still have a communication problem if they haven’t mastered the rules for social language known as pragmatics.

Children with pragmatic speech issues may embarrass their parents (albeit unintentionally because they lack social skills) by making what others view as rude comments. They may have little variety in language use, say inappropriate or unrelated things during conversations, or tell stories in a disorganized way.

Pragmatics involve 3 major communication skills:
  1. Changing language according to the needs of the listener or situation (e.g., talking differently to a baby than to a grown-up, speaking differently in a classroom than on a playground, giving background information to an unfamiliar listener, etc.)
  2. Following rules for conversations and storytelling (e.g., how close to stand to someone when speaking, how to use facial expressions and eye contact, how to use verbal and nonverbal signals, introducing topics of conversation, rephrasing when misunderstood, staying on topic, taking turns in conversation, etc.)
  3. Using language for different purposes (e.g., requesting, promising, informing, greeting, demanding, etc.)

All kids have pragmatic difficulties in some situations. But, if problems in social language use occur often and seem inappropriate considering your youngster's age, he or she may have a pragmatic disorder. Children with Pragmatic Language Disorder have particular trouble understanding the meaning of what others are saying, and they are challenged in using language appropriately to get their needs met and interact with peers.

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

Young people with the disorder often exhibit the following: 
  • aphasic speech (e.g., word search pauses, jargoning, word order errors, word category errors, verb tense errors)
  • delayed language development
  • difficulty explaining or describing an event
  • difficulty extracting the key points from a conversation or story
  • difficulty following conversations or stories
  • difficulty in distinguishing offensive remarks
  • difficulty in making and maintaining friendships and relationships because of delayed language development
  • difficulty in reading comprehension
  • difficulty understanding choices and making decisions
  • difficulty understanding contextual cues
  • difficulty understanding questions
  • difficulty understanding satire or jokes
  • difficulty with organizational skills
  • difficulty with pronouns or pronoun reversal
  • difficulty with reading body language
  • difficulty with verb tenses
  • stuttering or cluttering speech
  • tendency to be concrete or prefer facts to stories
  • tendency to get lost in the details
  • tendency to initiate conversations that are "off-topic" or "one-sided"
  • tendency to repeat words or phrases

Pragmatic disorders often coexist with other language problems (e.g., vocabulary development, grammar). In addition, pragmatic problems often lower social acceptance (e.g., peers may avoid having conversations with the affected child).

Language Problems in Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism 

Pragmatic Language Skills Development—

Moms and dads can help their AS and HFA children to use language appropriately in social situations (i.e., pragmatics). Here are some general suggestions to help develop these skills:

1. As often as needed, encourage your child to rephrase or revise an unclear word or sentence. Provide an appropriate rephrase or revision by asking, "Did you mean _____?"

2. As often as possible, take full advantage of naturally occurring “teaching-situations” throughout the day. For instance, have your child practice (a) requesting necessary materials to complete a project, (b) greetings at the beginning of a day, (c) saying goodbye to friends, (d) asking siblings what they want to eat for lunch, and so on.

3. Demonstrate how nonverbal cues are important to communication (e.g., talk about what happens when a facial expression does not match the emotion expressed in a verbal message, such as using angry words while smiling).

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

4. Pretending to talk to different people in different situations is a great pragmatics exercise (i.e., role-playing different conversations). For instance, create a situation in which your child has to explain the same thing to several people, such as how to make a grilled cheese sandwich or play a particular game. Model how your child should talk to a peer versus a grown-up, or a sibling versus a stranger.

5. Teach storytelling skills. Provide visual cues (e.g., pictures, objects, etc.) or a story outline to help tell a story in sequence.

6. Teach the use of “persuasion.” For instance, ask your child what she would say to convince you to let her do something. Discuss different ways to present a message. For example, indirect (“I wish I could go next door to see my friend.”) versus direct (“Can I go next door and see my friend?”), or impolite (“I’m not going to eat those green beans!”) versus polite (“Can I please have something other than green beans for my vegetable?”).

7. When your child speaks, respond to his “intended” message rather than correcting his grammar or pronunciation. Also, provide an appropriate model in your own speech. For instance, if your child says, "That's how it doesn't work," you can respond with, "Correct. That's not how it works.”

Kids with pragmatic language impairment are often unable to vary their language use, to relate information or stories in an organized way, or to say appropriate and “on-topic” things during conversations. Pragmatic speech disorder can also be related to difficulties with grammar and vocabulary development. As kids get older and more social skills are demanded, peers may avoid conversation with the child experiencing pragmatic speech problems. As a result, these “special needs” kids have fewer friends, are less accepted in social situations, and may be bullied or teased by peers.

If you think your AS or HFA youngster may have a pragmatic speech problem, contact a local licensed speech pathologist for an evaluation.

More resources for parents of children and teens with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's:

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Guide for Parents Who Want to Promote Self-Reliance

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Comprehensive Handbook

==> Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Audio Book

==> Parenting System that Reduces Problematic Behavior in Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

No comments:

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the ASD child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually.

Click here to read the full article…

How to Prevent Meltdowns in Children on the Spectrum

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's or HFA child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and your child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

Click here for the full article...

Parenting Defiant Teens on the Spectrum

Although Aspergers [high-functioning autism] is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager on the spectrum are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

Click here to read the full article…

Older Teens and Young Adult Children with ASD Still Living At Home

Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with ASD face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

Click here to read the full article…

Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

Click here
to read the full article...

Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and HFA

Become an expert in helping your child cope with his or her “out-of-control” emotions, inability to make and keep friends, stress, anger, thinking errors, and resistance to change.

Click here for the full article...