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What are Social-Pragmatic Skills and Autism Spectrum Disorders?

What are Social-Pragmatic Skills?

Children with ASD have deficits in social and communicative functioning, as well as restricted/repetitive interests. According to Gresham and Elliot (1984) “social skills are socially acceptable learned behaviors that enable a person to interact effectively with others and avoid socially unacceptable responses.” It is important to recognize that the word “learned” means that social skills can definitely be taught to individuals who do not automatically learn these skills (Cardon, 2011). Social skills are learned behaviors and typical developing children can learn these skills easily; however, children with social-pragmatic impairments typically require more prompting and instructions. Martin and McDonald (2003) describe pragmatics as behaviors that encompass social, emotional, and communicative aspects of social interaction.

Six Categories of Social Impairment: (Cardon, 2011)

1. Nonverbal communication

– Difficulty recognizing other people’s body language including facial expressions

2. Social initiation

– Rarely initiate conversation with others due to fear, anxiety, or apathy

– Initiate conversation frequently but appropriately

3. Reciprocity and terminating interactions

-Social Reciprocity: engage in one-way interactions

-Termination Interactions: not able to read cues that signal the end of conversation

4. Social cognition

– Difficulty with social problem solving

– May not understand the unwritten rules of social behavior

– May not understand other people’s view points

– Difficulty with joint attention (i.e. eye contact)

5. Behaviors associated with perspective taking and self-awareness

– Perspective Taking: difficulty understanding someone else’s feelings (Theory of Mind); failure to consider the

interests of others

– Self-awareness: difficulty evaluating one’s own behavior

6. Social anxiety and social withdrawal

– Fear of social or performance situations where embarrassment may occur; may prefer structured activities over

unstructured ones

 Therapy for Children with Social-pragmatic Impairments:

Speech-Language Pathologists work with children with social-pragmatic impairments. Social-pragmatic skills require peers, and social groups are a great way to teach children these skills. Children with ASD and other social-pragmatic impairments greatly benefit from these groups and learn social interaction skills. Strong social interaction skills mean: more meaningful relationships, greater happiness and self-esteem, greater social acceptance, greater desire to participate in social situations, and less anxiety (Cardon, 2011).