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Social Communication & Pragmatics

Kids on PhoneCommunication is not only about the words we use but it also involves non-verbal cues such as, tone of voice, body language, eye contact and facial expression. The use of language for social communication purposes is also known as “pragmatics”. Pragmatics involves knowing when to use certain language depending on; the situation you are in, who you are speaking with and also being able to follow conversational “rules” to navigate social situations.

A person may be able to express themselves using words and sentences, but if they are not using their language appropriately, they may still have a communication disorder. Such difficulties can also occur in parallel with other language disorders. Children develop their conversational skills in their preschool years. They learn about communication (verbal and non-verbal) in the context of conversations with immediate family, familiar adults, peers and teachers. Initially, their conversations are about what is happening in the moment, “here and now”. Those conversations are usually short, but in time and with practise, the pre-schooler learns to be an effective conversationalist.

 As parents of pre-schoolers, you can help your child develop his or her social communication skills by;

• Encouraging your child to say hello / goodbye when you meet or leave a friend’s home, for example.

• Making time for your child to develop close friendships with their peers and to socialise.

• Modelling appropriate social communication skills in a variety of situations.

• Reading stories that reflect social interactions and feelings/emotions with your child can be conversation starters.

• Responding to topics your child initiates in conversation shows them how to maintain a conversational topic.

• Setting aside time to talk with him or her regularly about things that interest each of you can help develop their conversation initiation, turn-taking and maintenance abilities. Young toddlers may only be able to maintain a conversation for about 5 minutes at a time.

Some examples of typical pragmatics skills development are;

• Up to 12 months of age toddlers smile, vocalise, use gestural communication and eventually early words to request objects and actions, to refuse something and to comment.

• 2 ½ year olds begin to use “please” more, They use words to request information and to respond to questions, they engage in more symbolic play and can tell a basic story.

• 3 year olds become better at maintaining a topic in conversation but still may only do so for about half of the time. They are more likely to request clarification if they do not understand something, they use language more in their play with peers and their stories become more sequential.

• 4 year olds use “Can you…?” and “would you…? to request items. They show more empathy, engage in more imaginative play and maintain their interactions more effectively.

If you have any concerns about your child’s speech and language development, please do not hesitate to contact me on 0417 255 062.

Catherine Downs

Catherine Downs

Catherine Down is Platinum Pre School's preffered Speech Pathologist, she writes specifically tailored articles for the Platinum Newsletter and advises our staff on questions related to childhood speech development. Catherine is a Certified Practising Speech Pathologist (CPSP) with Speech Pathology Australia (SPA) and is an affiliate member of the American Speech - Language - Hearing Association (ASHA).

Catherine holds a BA in Psychology from the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG) and a BAppSc of Speech Pathology from The University of Sydney. Catherine's qualifications and experience give her a unique set of skills for dealing with clients who are having communication, literacy and learning difficulties.

To find out more about Catherine's services or to book an appointment, please call Catherine on 0417 255 062 or visit her website -

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