Social Communication Disorder: What Is It?

Social communication disorder (SCD) is characterized primarily by impairment in what is called 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 in understanding word structure or grammar, or in general cognitive abilities. They primarily have difficulty using language in social situations, such as greetings, sharing information, changing speech to suit different social contexts, understanding things that are implied but not explicitly stated, and functioning in conversation and storytelling. SCD is a newly defined disorder. Children who had these symptoms in the past have been lumped into the category of what was called pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), a type of autism spectrum disorder, leading to inconsistent treatment and services. Children with autism spectrum disorder may have pragmatic communication problems, but they also have a host of other symptoms directly related to deficits in social interactions and behavior.