What is Social Communication?

Social communication, also known as pragmatic skills are the way in which children use language within social situations.

Social communication is made up of three important aspects including:

  • The ability to use language for different purposes (to greet others, story telling, ask questions, request).
  • The ability to change language to meet the needs of the listener or conversation situation (talking differently to a baby versus an adult or talking louder when there is lots of noise or using simpler vocabulary to help someone understand you).
  • The ability to follow the “rules” of language and storytelling (taking appropriate turns in conversations, making eye contact, keeping an appropriate distance from the conversation partner, using facial expressions and gestures).

It is important to remember that the rules of conversation are often different across cultures, within cultures and within different families. It is part of social communication for the conversational partners to quickly understand the rules of the person with whom they are communicating and adapt accordingly.

Children with a diagnosis of an Autism Spectrum Disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorder (Not Otherwise Specified) have difficulties with social communication.

The typical stages of development of social communication are as follows:



0-18 months 1  Brings objects to an adult to show them.

2  Tries to gain attention by using sounds and gestures,

3  Waves to say hello or goodbye or says the word “bye”.

4  Requests things using gestures, sounds or words (e.g. reaches for the biscuits in the cupboard).

5  Protests by shaking head, vocalizing or pushing an object away.

6  Comments on an object or action by getting the adult’s attention, pointing, or saying a word (pointing to the dog and saying “woof woof” with the intention of showing the dog to the adult).

7  Looks at the speaker or responds with a facial expression, vocal approximation or words when someone speaks.

18 months – 2 years •   Uses words or short phrases for various language functions (e.g. greeting: “hello”, “bye bye”,“no”, “mine”; making a statement: “ball blue”; giving a direction: saying “ball” while pointing for you to get the ball).

•   Uses phrases like “What’s that?” to get attention.

•   Names things in front of other people.

•   Engages in verbal turn taking.

2 – 3.5 years •   Can take on the role of another person within play.

•   Engages in a greater number of turns within interactions with others.

•   Begins to recognize the needs of other people and will speak differently to a baby versus an adult.

•   Acknowledges their communication partner’s messages by saying things like “yeah”, or “ok”

•   Begins using language for pretend play.

•   Requests permission to do things

•   Begins to correct others.

•   Is able to engage in simple story telling and is beginning to make guesses at what might happen in a story (inferencing).

4 – 5 years •   Can use terms correctly, such as ‘this’, ‘that’, ‘here’ and ‘there’.

•   Uses language to discuss emotions and feelings more regularly.

•   Uses indirect requests (e.g. “I’m hungry” to request food).

•  Narration is developing and the child can describe a sequence of events (“The man is on the horse and he is going to jump over the fence and then he is going to go home”).

5 – 6 years •   The ability to tell stories develops and the child is now able to tell a story with a central character and a logical sequence of events

•   May praise others (“Well done, you did it”).

•   Beginning to be able to make promises (e.g. “I promise I will do it tomorrow”).


-Mallory Varrone, MACF-SLP, TSSLD


How to Build a Language Rich Environment For Your Baby!

As a parent one of the biggest questions of your baby’s first year will be, “What will his first words be?” You will probably hear that first word around the age of one years old. Next, your child will start using simple consonant vowel sounds to form words such as “up,” “more,” and “me.” At about 18 months, your child’s vocabulary should explode and new words should be spoken often!

In order for your child to learn more words, he must hear them! As a parent there are many ways to expose your baby to a vast vocabulary and language rich environment. Although you can’t rush your child’s natural development, you can help boost his language skills. Here are some easy ways to help boost your baby’s language development.



  • Use American Sign Language Signs with your child! Sometimes kids struggle to talk, giving them the signs can help them communicate and ease frustrations. Signs teach children how to use symbols for objects.


  • Use real words and model longer phrases for your child. Using real words instead of baby talk will help expand his vocabulary. Instead of calling the bottle “baba,” use the proper word.


  • Plan playdates! Organize activities with kids your child’s age. Being around other children gives your child the chance to listen, interact, and use their vocabulary in a social setting. Help out by saying, “Wow, she’s giving you the toy. Say, ‘Thank you!'”


  • Incorporate music! Singing is a great way to build language. Teach your child simple rhyming song, such as “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “Old Mcdonald.” You will be surprised how quickly they remember the words!


  • Around 18 months, babies start using two word phrases to express themselves. Parents should model two word phrases for their child. For example, if he says “ball” you can say, “blue ball” or “throw the ball!” A simple sentence and a wonderful model of  language.


Mallory Varrone MACF-SLP, TSSLD



When is a Child Too Old for a Pacifier?


As infants, babies have a natural tendency to suck on their thumbs and fingers while they are in the womb! Finger sucking is a way to explore their environment, make the child feel secure and happy, provide comfort in stressful situations, and even act as a sleep aid. However, is using a pacifier a better idea for your child? There is still a current debate over the positive and negative aspects of using a pacifier.

Pacifiers can be used to help comfort a baby, help them fall asleep, help distinguish between a hungry rather than a fussy baby, and even help with reflux. Nevertheless, using a pacifier especially prolonged use can result in difficulties with breast feeding, future dental issues, increased risk of ear infections, speech difficulties, swallowing difficulties, dependency on the pacifier, and even negative social impact with peers.

Most children wean off the pacifier before two years of age, however other kids continue to use them until age four or five! If your child has not yet given up his or her pacifier by age two, it is time to encourage them to stop using it. Breaking the pacifier habit is not always easy, however here are some methods parents can use to stop it. Some things you can do to reduce the use of the pacifier include:

  • Keep the pacifier out of sight from the child and have them quit “cold turkey.”
  • Instead of scolding the child for thumb sucking, offer praise for not doing so.

  • Designate certain short periods of time of the day for pacifier use. For example, during naps or at bedtime.
  • Children often suck the pacifier when feeling insecure. Focus on correcting the cause of the anxiety and comfort the child.
  • Spend time with other children who do not use a pacifier! Children learn from their environment therefore, if no other children are using a pacifier, your child will be less likely to use one.
  • Gradually reduce the amount of time allowed for pacifier use. Not all children respond well to the cold turkey method, and a slow change may be more beneficial.
  • Find other ways the child can comfort himself other than using the pacifier. Give them their favorite toy instead!
  • Decrease pacifier use at monumental developmental stages. For example, when the child is learning to walk begin decreasing the availability of the pacifier.

It is important to remember the pacifier should never be a substitution for nurturing and attention towards your baby.  Reward the child when he or she avoids pacifier sucking during a difficult period, such as being separated from family members. As a parent, always make sure to be patient and give your child love and praise for their decreased use of the pacifier! And always remember to make sure the pacifier is dishwasher safe, that way it can stay clean.


-Mallory Varrone MACF-SLP,  TSSLD.