Social (Pragmatic) Communication Disorder (SCD)

Social (pragmatic) Communication Disorder is characterised by persistent difficulties in the social use of verbal and nonverbal communication.

Behaviour Help is a registered NDIS provider.

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Definition of SCD

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), Social (pragmatic) Communication Disorder is characterised by persistent difficulties in the social use of verbal and nonverbal communication as manifested by all of the following:

1. Deficits in using communication for social purposes, such as greeting and sharing information, in a manner that is appropriate for social context.
2. Impairment in the ability to change communication to match context or the needs of the listener, such as speaking differently in a classroom than on a playground, talking differently to a child than to an adult, and avoiding use of overly formal language.
3. Difficulties following rules for conversation and storytelling, such as taking turns in conversation, rephrasing when misunderstood, and knowing how to use verbal and nonverbal signals to regulate interaction.
4. Difficulties understanding what is not explicitly stated (e.g., making inferences) and nonliteral or ambiguous meaning of language (e.g., idioms, humor, metaphors, multiple meanings that depend on the context for interpretation).

(American Psychiatric Association, 2013).


Causes of SCD

Causes of social (pragmatic) communication disorder are not clearly known however it is sometimes associated with other conditions such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, and other disorders such as language disorders, dementia, hearing loss and traumatic brain injury. 


Types of SCD

Although social (pragmatic) communication disorder may not have defined differentiated types or categories, it can be described as one of the Communication Disorders that affect verbal and nonverbal inability to socialize. They may include language disorders where the affected person is not able to understand or use the correct words or signs in a specific conversation context.


Symptoms of SCD

Some of the general symptoms of social (pragmatic) communication disorder include but are not limited to: 

  • Challenges using suitable greetings. 
  • Inability to change a communication style or language to suit the current conversation.
  • Difficulty in telling and understanding stories. 
  • Challenges initiating, joining or participating in a conversation
  • Difficulty in maintaining the topic, or discussion or not waiting for an appropriate turn to speak or taking turns in a conversation or even providing appropriate responses in a conversation.
  • Inability to repair a communication breakdown, for example, the affected person may not even try to rephrase a sentence or what they said if they were misunderstood.
  • Inability to show or pick social cues such as facial expressions or signs from others and to interpret them suitably. 
  • Someone who is affected may not be able to get a joke or understand sarcasm in a social setting.  
  • They may not be able to understand information unless that information is explicitly stated.
  • An affected persons inability to make and keep close friendships or relationships.
  • Inability to provide background information or try to make people understand a concept when having a conversation with unfamiliar people or those who may not be familiar with the topic of discussion. 

(APA, 2013; ASHA, n.d.; Mandy et al., 2017 & Swineford et al., 2014)



American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.).

Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association.

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (n.d.). Social Communication Disorder. ASHA.

Mandy, W., Wang, A., Lee, I., Skuse, D. (2017).  Evaluating Social (Pragmatic) Communication Disorder. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 58(10), 1166-1175.

Swineford, L.B., Thurm, A., Baird, G. et al. (2014). Social (Pragmatic) Communication Disorder: A Research Review of This New DSM-5 Diagnostic Category. Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders, 6, 41


Behaviour Help

If you are supporting an individual with this diagnosis, please refer to our services and resources. They aim to help children, adolescents and adults achieve better communication, social, emotional, behavioural and learning outcomes. So whether you are wanting guidance on parenting, teaching, supporting or providing therapy, Behaviour Help is at hand.

Note: This is not an exhaustive list of all the possible causes, symptoms and types but some general information that can be further explored. Based on what you have read if you have any concerns about an individual, please raise them with the individual/s. The caregiver can then raise these concerns with their local doctor who can provide a referral to the relevant professional (e.g. paediatrician, psychologist, psychiatrist, allied health professional and learning specialists) for diagnosis and treatment if appropriate.

Which resources are right for you?


Based on the Taking CHARGE of Rainbow of Emotions Workbook this app helps children of all ages develop emotional regulation skills. The app guides the child to firstly, identify and express their emotion in appropriate ways. Then the child is guided to use emotional management tool/s from the CHARGE tool kit to manage their emotions in a healthy way.

The acronym CHARGE stands for the different categories of emotional management tools – Chat tools, Helpful thinking tools, Amusement tools, Relaxation tools, Good routine tools and Exercise tools.

Behaviour Help App - Using the evidence-based approach of Positive Behaviour Support (PBS), the Behaviour Help web-based app allows people supporting individuals with emotional and behavioural difficulties to complete a Functional Behaviour Analysis and put together a comprehensive Behaviour Support Plan (BSP). The BSP can then be used by everyone interacting with the individual to manage and prevent challenging behaviours and ultimately improve their lives, and the lives of those who support them.


If you want to learn more about emotional and behavioural difficulties then we have a great range of books you can read on your Kindle or order from Amazon.


Personalised and practical one to one help tailored specifically to your family.

Online Courses

Access these online courses anytime online to learn about a range of diagnoses, practical skills and strategies to help develop the individual’s emotional regulation skills. Also learn to utilise the positive behaviour support framework to address anxiety, aggression, ADHD, ASD and ODD.

SEL Educational Videos

Minimise or eliminate the occurrence of challenging behaviours by teaching children of all ages appropriate ways of communicating, interacting, managing their emotions and behaviours.

The SEL curriculum uses video modelling to provide direct, explicit and systematic teaching of the various skills by discussing the importance of the skill, modelling the skill so the child learns what the skill looks like? sounds like? feels like? and learn the skill in staged situations that simulate real life scenarios.


Personalised and practical behaviour therapy tailored specifically to your family.


Webinars discuss a range of practical strategies to guide your child learn positive ways of behaving and managing their emotions.


Attend our practical and interactive workshops to learn about a range of diagnoses, practical skills and strategies to help develop the individual’s emotions, behaviours, social and communication skills in your learning environment.

Ask Dolly

Since you’re here, you probably have questions and concerns. I am Dolly Bhargava, am here to help. I am a NDIS registered behaviour support practitioner and speech pathologist.

I have worked in a number of settings for over 21 years so, how can I help?

Please tell me what is worrying you right now and I will do my best to recommend resources and/or services that will be most useful to you in your situation.

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