It is a term that refers to difficulties that cause complex communication problems.

When kids start developing their communication skills, they need to master several aspects of the spoken language.

One of those essential areas of the language is the semantic aspect, which refers to the proper understanding and use of the words and their meanings.

Another vital area would be the way we should use the language, the pragmatic (or practical) aspect, which means knowing: what to say, how to say it, and when to say it.

The set of abnormal developmental issues in the aspects of language is what people know as Semantic-Pragmatic Disorder.


Semantic-Pragmatic Disorder, also known as Pragmatic Language Impairment, is a communication issue that likely occurs due to the inability to process all the given information from certain situations.

Children who suffer from this disorder are unable to understand the relationship between words or sentences and their meanings, and they can’t make language work in context.

Some experts think that the Semantic-Pragmatic Disorder is related to autism, because of the affected kids displaying difficulties in socializing with others as well as lacking imagination and creativity.

However, not every patient with Semantic-Pragmatic Disorder has autism.

The human brain automatically absorbs information to process it and analyze it, discarding what the mind considers irrelevant but storing what is essential.

That is how people learn to connect meanings and feelings to words without needing a visual reference to remember them.

People with Semantic-Pragmatic Disorder have difficulties with this form of processing, which leads to a remarkably lacking understanding of what is appropriate to say.

Several experts don’t like to use the term Semantic-Pragmatic Disorder, as some there is little correlation between semantic and pragmatic behaviors.

That is why speech and language therapists prefer to use the term “Pragmatic Language Impairment” to describe this disorder.

Semantic-Pragmatic Disorder Symptoms

Some of the usual signs of Pragmatic Language Impairment are pretty similar to autism when it comes to behavior. One example being a difficulty in socializing with other kids.

Children with this disorder often struggle to understand the meaning of sentences or words.

In some cases, kids would appear to have a reasonable vocabulary, and yet they have difficulty in using language socially.

According to a study made in 1987, the children who have this condition display delayed language development early on, but later they develop fluent speech with clear articulation.

The main issue would be the lack of comprehension in the pragmatic and semantic aspects of the language.

They’ll be able to cope with straightforward instructions, but in other circumstances, they may tend to give over-literal or tangential responses to less specific sentences or expressions.

In other terms, their conversation is mistimed or inappropriate despite the fact they could exhibit good vocabulary and include long sentences or grammatically complex forms in their speech pattern.

Children will also display an odd or inflexible vocabulary, along with a rather literal understanding of the language. They’ll be unable to grasp the meaning of puns, slangs, and metaphorical phrases.

Some kids may have difficulty in keeping eye contact or exhibit inappropriate facial expressions.

Children with Pragmatic Language Impairment are likely to display good mechanical reading skills, but they often struggle to grasp the meaning of what they read.

How to help?

It is essential for people to understand that Pragmatic Language Impairment is not a disease.

This term describes a remarkable delay in the language development of a child, and that means the needs of the kid will likely change over time.

That is why parents, teachers, and medical experts should continuously assess all aspects of the child’s communication to determine what do they need to work on and what’s the best way to proceed.

Parents can work with teachers to develop effective methods of communication. They have to help their child to participate in conversations.

In this regard, if the children hear something that they may not readily understand, parents can repeat the message in a much simpler language.

If they vocalize an unclear sentence, parents should ask them to repeat what they just said or, if the situation calls for it, help them by rephrasing their words.

Speech therapists can recommend individual and group sessions to encourage the kid to develop his language skills in a social setting by interacting with various people.

In such setting, the child may be able to learn to interpret body language and facial expressions, as well as understanding other person’s perspectives and keeping eye contact during a conversation.

Medical experts also recommend one-on-one speech therapy using social stories. Many of them use this technique for children with autism.

During such sessions, roleplaying can help the child to develop an understanding of how to communicate adequately in casual scenarios.