What is Pragmatic Language?
language is the use of appropriate communication in social situations (knowing
what to say, how to say it, and when to say it). Pragmatic language involves
three major skills:
1. Using language for different purposes such as:
(Hello. Goodbye. How are you?)
(I am leaving.)
(Say “Good-bye.” Pick up the toy.)
(I am going to the playground.)
(Do you want to go along?)
2. Changing language according to the listener or the situation,
to a teacher versus talking to a baby
in a classroom versus talking in the cafeteria
about family to another family member versus a stranger
3. Following rules for conversation, such as:
turns while talking
the same topic as the other speaker
and understanding nonverbal signals (facial expression, eye contact, etc.)
What are the building blocks necessary
to develop social communication (pragmatics)?
Receptive (understanding) language: Comprehension of
Expressive (using) language: The use of language through speech,
sign or alternative forms of communication to communicate wants, needs, thoughts
Pre-language skills: The ways in which we communicate
without using words and include things such as gestures, facial expressions,
imitation, joint attention and eye-contact.
Executive functioning: Higher order reasoning and
Self regulation: The ability to obtain, maintain and change one’s emotion, behavior, attention and
activity level appropriate for a task or situation in a socially acceptable
What activities can help improve social
Role play: Engage in role play activities with adults and other
children to simulate social situations (e.g. going shopping, going to the park,
Turn-taking games: Engage in turn taking games, such
as board games to teach the child that it is ‘okay to lose’.
Facial expressions: Look at facial expressions and
discuss the feelings associated with the facial expressions.
through miming making faces that show different feelings.
Describing activities: Look at pictures together to
encourage descriptive language about a topic or thing, with the adult prompting
to keep the child on topic.
part in role play or puppet shows after watching a modeled situation.
Comic strips: Use appropriate comic strips that illustrate social
situations (do’s or don’ts) and talk explicitly about what is happening.
Social skills groups: Work with the school to set up
small structured groups where social skills can be practiced (e.g. turn taking,
waiting, responding, staying on topic, questioning).
Social stories: Develop social stories that
depict how to behave and respond in certain social situations.
Greetings: Encourage your child to say ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ in