Speech Therapy

What Is Semantics And Pragmatics Disorder?

Every now an then we come across children who face problems understanding the meaning of words, phrases, and sentences and also find it hard to use words, phrases, and sentences appropriately when interacting with others. These two situations are called Semantics And Pragmatics problem respectively. Let us understand a bit more about these two related problems in brief.

Semantics And Pragmatics:
Children with the problem of semantics find it very hard to understand the meaning of words, phrases, or sentences, literally or contextually. They also have difficulty understanding abstract words – words that are independent and self-explanatory like ‘success’, and with words that are related to emotions and feelings like ‘passionate’, and words that describe status or position of a thing like ‘authority’, and words that describe degree of importance like ‘essential’ etc.

  • Kids with semantics problem are troubled using slang expressions, idioms, and sayings, and they take the literal meaning of it. For example, when we say ‘it is raining cats and dogs’, we imply it is raining heavily, but to a child with semantics problem it would literally mean cats and dogs are raining.
  • Another problem with these children is that they fail to understand the basic core, the gist of any conversation. They pick up one or two words from the conversation and assume what the conversation is all about, and without being clear or understanding it completely they change the subject based on a couple of words that they assumed. For instance, if you ask them or talk to them about spending more time at home, then they might pick a word from it and answer that they don’t have enough money to spend, or some other irrelevant, odd, and vague answer.

Children with pragmatics face trouble with how to use language when interacting with others. They have problem filtering what to say, when to say, how to say, and when not to say. In general, they have a problem to ‘be’ around people.

  • They face difficulty with language and can stop the conversation abruptly or answer any question with blank stares or silence. Or they might just flood the other person with all the irrelevant talk.
  • They interrupt when others talk, or try to talk over others, or will give the minutest detail of an event or a story that the main gist is lost. It is hard for them to follow the rules of a decent conversation where one person speaks and the other person waits for his/her turn.
  • It is troublesome for them to maintain and hold an interesting conversation for long on any one topic, and they might jump or randomly shift from topic to another, assuming they are still on the same topic.
  • They avoid eye contact, or stare at the other person, or stand too close to the other person’s discomfort, and they fail to read the cues of verbal and non-verbal communication.

This was a brief understanding of what semantics and pragmatics disorder. Any kid that you know, if he/she is exhibiting these symptoms, then it is better to take him/her to a speech and language pathologist. Apart from that a supportive group of friends, family, teachers, peers, and others can be very beneficial in developing a healthy social life.

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