In past posts, we have provided information and resources related to pragmatic language, including pragmatic language developmental milestones, how to write pragmatic language goals, and resources to target pragmatic language. In this post, we will provide overviews of all of these topics to help see how pragmatic language comes together in identifying it, targeting it, and supporting it in therapy and beyond.  

Read on to see:

1. What is pragmatic language?

2. Who may have pragmatic language difficulties?

3. Pragmatic language goals

4. Pragmatic language resources

5. How to support pragmatic language as a caregiver


1. What is pragmatic language?

Pragmatic language, also known as “social language” can be thought of as when, how, and why we use speech and language.

Having adequate pragmatic skills is important for many reasons. At a deep level, we are social beings, meaning we were made to live in communities, and we thrive on forming connections with others through friendships, relationships, and more.

Pragmatic language skills are also important because, especially as children, we are reliant on others to help us throughout our days.

A child needs to communicate to their caregivers their wants and needs, pains and weaknesses. As adults, we need to be able to communicate with doctors, bosses, co-workers, and friends.

Without having sound pragmatic language skills, these daily tasks are severely affected.

2. Who may have pragmatic language difficulties?

Many individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) present with pragmatic language weaknesses. Other individuals who may have pragmatic language deficits include those with intellectual disabilities, developmental disabilities, learning disabilities, and brain injuries.

3. Pragmatic language goals (examples)

Using language

[Client] will make a request for 5 preferred items/activities, during structured activities, with 90% accuracy.

Changing language

[Client] will adjust her vocal volume, across settings, within 4 out of 5 opportunities.

Following rules (of language)

[Client] will participate in a conversation for 4 or more conversational turns, when talking to a peer, in 3 out of 4 trials.

4. Pragmatic language resources (example)

Goal: Individual will maintain the given topic of conversation for 2 or more turns, during a structured activity, with 90% accuracy.

Activity: Present a topic for an individual. This may be as vague as “sports,” or as specific as “today’s lunch.” Tell them that you are each going to say three things about one of these topics. If you are talking about a baseball game, but then they start talking about a movie they watched (that’s not about baseball), remind them that is “off topic” and you are talking about baseball, not movies.

5. How to support pragmatic language as a caregiver

Whether or not your loved one is receiving intervention, there are still many things you can do to support pragmatic language development. Research supports the notion that supporting skills in naturalistic or everyday settings (e.g. at home, during play and daily activities) is beneficial and effective.

Some things you may think about as you engage with your loved one are:

Topic maintenance

Commenting/asking questions about a specific topic

Demonstrating whole-body listening

Model

Role-play


We hope that looking at all facets of pragmatic language has been helpful! Click on any of the links above to be directed to more detailed articles about these topics.