Social pragmatic communication disorder (SPCD) refers to marked challenges with nonverbal and verbal communication skills used in social settings.
Social communication difficulties may be associated with other communication disorders. However, as of 2013, SPCD is now considered its own category, as defined in the Fifth Edition Manual of Diagnosis and Statistics of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).
SPCD is also considered separate from certain neurodevelopmental disorders that can also affect communication skills, including Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
Read on for more information about SPCD, including symptoms, treatment, and its difference or relationship to other conditions that may affect communication skills.
Recently added to the Communication Disorders section of the DSM-5, the SPCD refers to a “primary deficit” in both verbal and nonverbal communication used in social situations.
These difficulties may include:
- inadequate communication in certain social contexts
- difficulties in using language to socialize
- not knowing how to use and understand both verbal and non-verbal cues
- lack of understanding regarding non-literal language
The symptoms of SPCD can vary in type and intensity between individuals. Here are some of the signs of SPCD:
- difficulties in adapting communication skills to different social contexts, such as greetings and starting the conversation
- inability to switch between formal and informal language
- problems taking turns during conversations
- difficulties in using non-verbal communication techniques during social interactions, such as eye contact and hand gestures
- difficulty understanding non-literal language, such as inferences, sarcasm, metaphors, and idioms made during conversation
- make and / or keep friends
Having one or more of these symptoms does not mean that you have SPCD automatically. To be diagnosed with this communication disorder, the DSM-5 notes that symptoms must significantly interfere with:
- interpersonal relationships
- your ability to socialize
- to work
As of DSM-5, SPCD is considered an independent condition of ASD.
Some of the symptoms of SPCD may seem to match those associated with ASD, including what was previously known as Asperger’s. A 2017 study also concluded that SPCD may not look completely different from ASD, but it may include common features.
However, the DSM-5 has placed the SPCD in its own category as those that are not caused by any other developmental disorder or underlying medical condition.
Communication difficulties that can be observed in ASD include:
- similar “lack of attention” in social interactions
- difficulty holding back and forth conversations
- talk to others without giving them a chance to respond
Sometimes an SPCD can be diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Although ADHD can lead to some communication difficulties, the causes and impacts are not the same as SPCD.
Communication difficulties that can be seen in ADHD include:
- excessive speaking
- inability to focus on someone talking to you
- interfering in the conversations of others
- interrupting others who may be talking to you
- he has trouble waiting his turn to speak
Although the exact cause is unknown, some researchers believe that SPCD may have a genetic component. It can also work in families with a history of pragmatic language difficulties.
Some of the signs of SPCD may coincide with neurodevelopmental disorders. These include ASD and ADHD.
Prior to the separate classification by DSM-5, SPCD was thought to coexist with ADHD and other genetic or neurological conditions.
However, DSM-5 considers SPCD to be its own disorder. This means that it is not caused by ASD, ADHD, or any other neurodevelopmental condition.
Children should have time to sufficiently develop their language skills before detecting SPCD. Therefore, a diagnosis of SPCD should not be made until they are at least 4 to 5 years old.
As the exact causes of SCPD are unknown, no preventive measures are known. However, early detection is key to initiating treatments and providing better outcomes in interpersonal relationships, work, and school.
Other researchers have expressed concern about the diagnosis of SPCD in the face of a neurodevelopmental disorder for fear that those affected will not receive the services they need, both in school and in clinical settings.
SPCD can work in families. Other risk factors may include:
Find help for the social disorder of pragmatic communication
If you or a loved one needs help with the social disorder of pragmatic communication, there are several professionals who can help you get started, including the following:
- primary care physician or pediatrician
- day care center
- local health department
Depending on your insurance requirements, you can also contact a private speech therapist office directly for an appraisal and evaluation.
Treatment for SCPD focuses on speech therapy given by a speech therapist (SLP). SLP services are available for school children who meet the requirements and you can also get speech therapy at private consultations.
While individual, individual sessions are essential, group therapy can also help improve pragmatic social skills. Group therapies are also used in school settings. Some private internships may also offer group social skills classes.
Before starting SPCD treatment, you will need to be examined and evaluated by professionals, such as SLPs. These assessments can be provided at school, private internships, or both.
They will use a combination of:
- interviews (with yourself or your parents, depending on your age)
- reports from teachers or caregivers
- auditory tests
With early detection and treatment, the prospects for SPCD are positive. You may attend long-term speech therapy and / or social skills classes for best results. Adolescents and adults can benefit from life skills groups.
SPCD itself can be for life, with some symptoms improving over time. It is important to monitor progress to avoid any regression as well. However, with early therapy, social communication skills can be improved, thus decreasing the need for intervention.
SPCD is a type of communication disorder that can negatively affect social interactions. Although many of its symptoms may overlap with neurodevelopmental disorders such as ADHD, DSM-5 considers SPCD to be its own condition. It is also considered a separate disorder of ASD.
While it is important to detect SPCD for early intervention, you should not self-diagnose this condition. If you suspect that you or a loved one is having problems with social media, talk to a doctor for help in the next steps.