Social Pragmatic Goals In Speech Therapy: Everything You Need To Know

This overview introduces social pragmatic goals in speech therapy as well as examples of how these goals contribute to your child’s increasing social ability.

Social Pragmatic Goals In Speech Therapy

When my child was first diagnosed with social pragmatic language disorder, I was not surprised. Part of my college education included a minor in communication disorders, so I was familiar with how a speech-language pathologist would approach his treatment. What did surprise were the actual pragmatic language goals that were put into place as part of his IEP.

Learning Social Language Skills

When is child is struggling with pragmatic language, struggle in various language related functions, including:

  • conversational turns
  • comprehending facial expressions
  • body language
  • personal space
  • understanding figurative language (i.e. metaphor, hyperbole, etc.)
  • appropriate eye contact
  • visual cues
  • verbal prompts

Fluency in conversation exchanges amongst young children is very different than the pragmatic skills necessary for social conversation as a child gets older (and don’t get me started on middle schoolers!). The school setting tends to expose a need for social pragmatics and often leads to speech therapy for social communication skills.

Social Pragmatic Goals In Speech Therapy

Examples Of Social Skills Goals For Functional Communication

The following is a sample list of goals a speech therapist might establish for social pragmatic learning. Please note, these goals go far beyond the articulation goals that are most frequently a part of speech therapy. You will typically find them as part of an IEP goal bank in speech-language pathology.

  1. Learner will label emotions/feelings in partners or in pictures with 80% accuracy for 3 sessions.
  2. Learner will use words to express their feelings independently for 80% of opportunities across 3 sessions.
  3. Learner will state an answer to what another person might be feeling based about a social situation with 80% accuracy for 3 sessions,
  4. Learner will answer pragmatic questions about social situations during structured activities with 80% accuracy for 3sessions.
  5. Learner will identify a problem in a social setting/picture scene with 80% accuracy for 3 sessions.
  6. Learner will make inferences after hearing part of a story/social situation with 80% accuracy for 3 sessions.
  7. Learner will use greetings and farewells for 5 consecutive sessions..
  8. Learner will request help independently in 80% of opportunities across 5 sessions
  9. Learner will maintain conversation for 3 turns by asking a questions or commenting with no more than 1 verbal prompt for 3 sessions.
  10. Learner will add an appropriate comment to a topic generated by therapist or partner without prompting at least 10 times across 3 sessions.
  11. Learner will participate in turn-taking with the therapist for 5 turns per opportunity with a minimum of 5 opportunities across 3 sessions.
  12. Learner will identify signs of listener boredom or disinterest independently with 80% accuracy for 3 sessions.

These goals are certainly not exhaustive, but do help to measure a child’s progress towards social interaction skills in everyday life.

Social Pragmatic Goals In Speech Therapy

Autism Spectrum Disorder vs. Social Pragmatic Language Disorder

While there is some overlap, social pragmatic language disorder exists as a diagnosis completely separate from autism spectrum disorder in the DSM-V. Prior to the DSM-V’s release however, the two were considered the same diagnosis – autism spectrum disorder.

According to Attitude Magazine people with social pragmatic language disorder may also struggle with:

  • Responding to others
  • Using gestures such as waving and pointing
  • Taking turns when talking
  • Talking about emotions and feelings
  • Staying on topic
  • Adjusting speech to fit different people and different circumstances
  • Asking relevant questions
  • Responding with related ideas
  • Using words for different purposes, such as greeting people, asking questions, responding to questions, making comments
  • Making and keeping friends

Here is a strong comparison of the similarities and differences between the two:

Many of the same symptoms also often overlap with those of other dianoses and learning differences, which can complicate diagnosis (according to a study completed in 2013.) Part of the diagnostic criteria is designed to rule out other potential factors first.

Social Pragmatic Goals In Speech Therapy

How Structured Language Activities Support A Child’s Social Relationships

Independent of any diagnosis, the reality is that a child struggling with pragmatic language can benefit greatly from accommodation and intervention.

Social Pragmatic Goals In Speech Therapy

Every one of the goals above corresponds to a need identified as part of the speech evaluations. Conversation skills, problem solving, nonverbal communication, and social cognition are all factored into these goals and how they impact a child’s ability in conversational exchanges.

You can learn more about the impact of this type of intervention through the eyes of the child in this video.

More Resources For Social Pragmatic Communication

Speech Therapy For An Older Child

Speech Therapy At Home

Figurative Language Activities

Allusion Sentence Examples And Activities

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