Students need speech therapy for different reasons. Some more obvious reasons are articulation or stuttering. But sometimes a student is referred to therapy for social language. We call this “pragmatic language”.
Social language problems include not knowing and following social rules (which are often not taught explicitly) like:
- take turns
- use a voice that is the right pitch and loudness for the situation
- read the social cues (like facial expression and body posture of your listener)
- make guesses when you don’ have enough information
- gauge your listeners understanding and provide more (or less) information when needed
Students with autism and other non-verbal learning disabilities often have trouble using language in a practical and effective way. They can get stuck on certain things. I had a student get stuck on the word “guess”. Eddie (not his real name) came to see me for speech therapy because he had difficulty with pragmatic language. One of his goals was to solve hypothetical problems.
I asked “What would you do if your TV wasn’t working?”
“I don’t know.”
“Guess” I said.
“I don’t guess. DON’T make me guess. No Guessing!” He was very clear in communicating this. He knew he could not guess. (Not if you called it guessing, anyway.)
I changed the word. “Ok, no guessing. . . . let’s think of a way to solve that problem.”
He began to come up with ideas for solving the problem. I never again called it guessing. That’s just semantics! Or the meaning of a word. If you need to get around a semantics problem, try another word. It just might help.