Social communication disorder is characterized primarily by challenges with pragmatics—the area of linguistics that has to do with how meaning is created and interpreted in verbal and nonverbal interactions. Children with this disorder are not impaired when it comes to understanding word structure or grammar, or in general cognitive abilities. They primarily have difficulty using language in social situations.

SCD is a new disorder. In the past, children who had these symptoms were lumped into the category of what was called pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), a now-defunct autism diagnosis. Autism spectrum disorder must be ruled out for a SCD diagnosis.


  • Difficulty using language in certain social situations such as: greetings, sharing information, changing speech to suit different social contexts, understanding things that are implied but not explicitly stated, conversation, storytelling
  • Delay in reaching language milestones
  • Low interest in social interactions
  • Child rarely initiates social interaction with others
  • Child responds very minimally or atypically to others’ attempts at socializing


A specific treatment for SCD is not yet known. It is presumed that speech and language therapy designed to improve language pragmatics will help these children, along with social skills training.

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