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Social (Pragmatic) Communication Disorder

According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), social (pragmatic) communication disorder "is characterized by a persistent difficulty with verbal and nonverbal communication that cannot be explained by low cognitive ability...this disorder limits effective communication, social relationships, academic achievements, or occupational performance."1 A diagnosis of ASD must be ruled out before SCD can be accurately diagnosed. By identifying this distinct disorder, treatment providers are able to provide specific treatment so that they receive the appropriate care.

Social (Pragmatic) Communication Disorder is a new diagnosis was first published in the DSM-5, which was released in May of 2013. Below are the diagnostic criteria for SCD according to the DSM-51:

Diagnostic Criteria for Social (Pragmatic) Communication Disorder 315.39 (F80.89)

A. Persistent difficulties in the social use of verbal and nonverbal communication as manifested by all of the following:

  • Deficits in using communication for social purposes, such as greeting and sharing information, in a manner that is appropriate for the social context.

  • Impairment of the ability to change communication to match context or the needs of the listener, such as speaking differently in a classroom than on the playground, talking differently to a child than to an adult, and avoiding use of overly formal language.

  • 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.Difficulties understanding what is not explicitly stated (e.g., making inferences) and non-literal or ambiguous meanings of language (e.g., idioms, humor, metaphors, multiple meanings that depend on the context for interpretation).

B. The deficits result in functional limitations in effective communication, social participation, social relationships, academic achievement, or occupational performance, individually or in combination.

C. The onset of the symptoms is in the early developmental period (but deficits may not become fully manifest until social communication demands exceed limited capacities).

D. The symptoms are not attributable to another medical or neurological condition or to low abilities in the domains or word structure and grammar, and are not better explained by autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disability (intellectual developmental disorder), global developmental delay, or another mental disorder.

Since SCD is a new diagnosis, there is little data available to determine how many individuals have been diagnosed with SCD.

1. "Social (Pragmatic) Communication Disorder." American Psychiatric Association (APA). Accessed October 25, 2013.
http://www.dsm5.org/... Fact Sheet.pdf.