Children cooking together.image by emily

Pragmatics is the study of language in a social setting.  Think communication.  Just as children struggle with emotions, many children also battle expressing themselves correctly and understanding what is said to them in facial expressions, non-verbal clues, tone, etc.  While some children learn by example, others must be taught how to handle various situations that arise.

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association:

Pragmatics involve three major communication skills:

  • Using language for different purposes (greeting, informing, demanding, promising, requesting)
  • Changing language according to the needs of a listener or situation (talking differently to a baby than to an adult, giving background information to an unfamiliar listener, speaking differently in a classroom than on a playground)
  • Following rules for conversations and storytelling (taking turns in conversation, introducing topics of conversation, staying on topic, rephrasing when misunderstood, how to use verbal and nonverbal signals, how close to stand to someone when speaking, how to use facial expressions and eye contact)

An individual with pragmatic problems may:

  • say inappropriate or unrelated things during conversations
  • tell stories in a disorganized way
  • have little variety in language use

Parents and teachers can help a child use language appropriately in social situations (pragmatics)!

  • Ask open-ended questions to further discussion (i.e. Tell me about...?)
  • Role play situations before they happen
  • Lead by example in how you talk
  • Help the child rephrase a question or sentence if need be
  • Work on understanding facial expression
  • Ask situational questions (i.e. What do you do if...?, What do you say if...?)

Example Pragmatic Statement, Situation, and Questions

Pragmatics can be improved with practice.  Download these example questions to use during meal times, while driving, or in addition to school work.  Tweak these questions to fit your child's ability and situation.

Example Questions:  What should you do when you sneeze?

Example Statement:  Tell me what your favorite pizza toppings are.

Emotions and Feelings
Example Questions:  What do you do if someone gives you a present that you don’t like?

Example Situation:  You walk into a room and see your sister crying.  What should you do?


Pragmatic Books:

Reading picture books is an excellent way to work on social language.  Click to learn "How to Go Beyond the Story When Reading a Book."  Here are two books to get you started.

  Green Eggs and Ham - Read information on how to use this book here.

  Merry Christmas Big Hungry Bear 



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