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What is social communication disorder?

By Gail Belsky

At a Glance

  • Social communication disorder (SCD) impacts conversation.

  • It’s not a problem with speech.

  • People with SCD are as smart as anyone else.

Social communication disorder (SCD) is a condition that makes it hard to talk with other people. It’s not a problem with speech. It’s also not a problem with the mechanics of language, like pronouncing words and using grammar. 

SCD impacts a specific area of language called pragmatics. This is the use of language in social interactions. 

People with SCD have trouble following the “rules” of spoken communication. They may take over conversations and interrupt a lot. Some say things that are off-topic. Others hesitate to talk at all.

These challenges make it hard to connect with people — at school, on the job, or in social settings. And that can take a toll on self-esteem.

SCD is a lifelong condition. But there are ways to improve skills in kids and adults.

Dive deeper

Signs of social communication disorder

The signs of SCD show up in early childhood. In fact, having early symptoms is one of the criteria for diagnosis.

Very young kids may have delays in social communication milestones like using sounds or gestures to greet people. They may also have little interest in interacting socially. But families and teachers may not recognize the signs until later on. 

Here are some signs of SCD at any age:

  • Doesn’t get sarcasm; is overly literal

  • Doesn’t give background information when talking to unfamiliar people

  • Has trouble understanding things that are implied but not stated

  • Has trouble picking up on social cues like facial expressions

  • Doesn’t use appropriate greetings

Learn more about difficulty making conversation

What causes social communication disorder

It’s not clear what causes SCD. But it often occurs with other conditions and challenges. These include autism, , trouble with reading, and language disorders. To get to the bottom of the communication issues, it’s important to look at what else might be going on.

SCD isn’t related to intelligence. People who have it are just as smart as other people. But it can create challenges at school, at work, and in everyday life.

To diagnose SDC, speech-language therapists use a variety of tests. These tests look at verbal and nonverbal communication skills in different settings. Therapists might also observe kids in the classroom and at home.

Learn about language disorders that can also impact communication.

How to help

The main treatment for kids with SCD is speech-language therapy. Kids may get it for free at school. There are also therapists who work in private settings. 

Speech-language therapists can work with kids on conversation skills either one-on-one or in small groups. They might use role-playing games or visuals like comic books. Social skills groups can also help kids with SCD improve their communication skills.

Young adults and adults may be able to find groups or workshops that focus on building social skills or life skills. These programs may be run by speech-language therapists, social workers, psychologists, vocational counselors, and college counselors.

Learn more about speech-language therapists and how they help with communication skills.

Parents and caregivers: Discover ways to help your child build conversation skills , and how to request a free school evaluation .

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  • Facebook
  • Twitter
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  • Email
  • Text Message
  • Coming soonGoogle Classroom