Pragmatic Speech

What is Pragmatic speech?

Definition: Pragmatic speech is language used to communicate and socialize. It involves three major areas.

  1. Using language for a variety of functions such as: greeting (i.e. hello, goodbye), requesting (i.e. I would like a book), demanding (i.e. give me a book), and informing (i.e. this book is about a dog).
  2. Changing Language: This aspect of pragmatics involves changing what you say or are going to say based on the needs of the listener/ or conversation partner. Examples include– speaking differently to an adult than you would to a child, telling background information to a unfamiliar listener, and speaking differently to your boss than you would to your friend.
  3. Following rules: talking turns during conversation, listening when the other person is speaking, commenting appropriately, rephrasing when misunderstood, using facial expressions and eye contact, staying on topic, and ending a conversation when necessary

Some children whether they have the ability to talk may benefit from therapy focused on pragmatic speech.

Since difficulty with social communication is a characteristic of autism spectrum disorders, many children with an autism spectrum disorders diagnosis will need some level of pragmatic speech therapy. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, people with pragmatic speech issues may:

  • say inappropriate or unrelated things during conversations
  • tell stories in a disorganized way
  • have little variety in language use
  • Pragmatic speech therapy is offered by speech therapists. It is appropriate for    children, but may be equally appropriate for teens and adults.

How can a Speech-Language Pathologist help my child?

There are many ways a SLP can help your child learn how to use language in a more social and appropriate manner. Some options include:

  1. Role playing: Pretending to talk to different people in different situations. For instance, set up a situation as if you were in a restaurant and have each person take a role. The child can be the person ordering while the SLP can act as the waitress. In this situation, the child will use a variety of appropriate language functions to order his/her food. In addition, the SLP will model how your child should talk to the other conversation partner (i.e. the waitress) in order to get the point across.
  2. Encouraging the use of persuasion: For instance, asking the person what he/she would do in order to convince a friend, family member, or other loved ones to let him/her do something. Discussing different ways to ask such as: polite (saying please, thank you), direct language (shut the window) vs. direct language (It’s cold in here), discussing why some requests may be more persuasive then others.
  3. Helping with conversation and story-telling skills: commenting on a topic (i.e. adding related information to encourage talking more about a particular topic), providing visual cues (i.e. pictures, objects, or graphs to tell the story in a sequence), encouraging rephrasing (i.e. “What do you mean? ”,“Can you explain that again?”), and show the importance of non-verbal signs (i.e. contact, gestures, and facial expression).

To set up an evaluation for your child, call any one of our offices!

Social Language Use (Pragmatics). (n.d.). Retrieved February 24, 2015, from



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