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Language Disorder

Social/Pragmatic Communication Disorder is a developmental disorder characterized by a primary difficulty with the social use of language and communication. Individuals with language disorder demonstrate delayed or disorganized language ability. Language disorder may include impairments in grammar, semantics, syntax, and pragmatics, and deficits interfere with daily life and academic progress. These deficits may cause functional limitations in social participation, development of relationships, and academic achievement.

Signs of language disorder include:

  • Difficulties using language in a manner that is appropriate for the social context
  • Inability to change communication to match the needs of the listener
  • Using overly formal language
  • Difficulties with taking turns in conversation
  • Inability to rephrase when misunderstood
  • Difficulties using verbal and nonverbal signals to interact
  • Difficulties making inferences and understanding what is not explicitly stated
  • Inability to understand idioms, humor, metaphors, and phrases with multiple meanings

Deficits in social communication generally appear in the early elementary years, but in some milder cases, deficits may not become apparent until adolescence, when social language demands become greater and interactions become more complex.

Though many cases of language disorder may look like autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), language disorder can be differentiated by a lack of restricted/repetitive patterns of behavior and interests. Language disorder should also be distinguished from other disorders that might cause impairments in social communication, such as ADHD, social anxiety disorder, and intellectual disability, though it is not unusual for those disorders to co-occur.

Treatment for language disorder is crucial, as many children who receive adequate treatment improve substantially over time. Others who do not receive treatment may have difficulties continuing into adulthood, which causes lasting impairments in social relationships and delays acquisition of other important skills, such as written expression.