Speech Therapy

What Is Semantic Problem In Children? – A Brief Understanding

One summer afternoon I and my friend were sitting and chatting at her place and enjoying catching up with each other. Another friend joined us, and was a bit distressed. Her son has Semantic Problem she said. I heard it for the first time and had no idea what it meant. She explained that kids with this issue find it hard to understand the meaning of words and have trouble gaining the gist of the conversation.

Semantic Problem:
Semantics is a sub-field of linguistics where the meaning of words is studied, but when a kid has a problem with it then his normal, day to day life can be distressing. Interpreting and understanding a word contextually or literally is difficult for these children.

Children with the problem face difficulty in understanding a word, or a group of words, phrase or sentence. They also have short concentration levels and are troubled to follow directions or long sentences in a conversation.

Understanding abstract words – words that express a characteristic or quality like justice, success and so on, or words that express emotions and feelings like ‘overwhelmed’, ‘anxiety’ etc, or word or group of words that explain position/status like ‘authority, ‘expert’, and words that express the degree or seriousness of situation like ‘intense’, ‘essential’ etc.

Also, it is troublesome for them to understand things contextually. They take the literal meaning of slang, and proverbs, for example, the saying ‘beating around the bush’ means withholding information or misleading by being unclear. But a child with this problem would take the idiom in literal sense and might ask ‘why to beat the bush?’

Children with this issue have another problem; they fail to identify the main point of any conversation. When they answer or interact, they assume that what they are talking is totally relevant to the topic; but as a matter of fact they just pick up some random word or a phrase and build their reply based on it. Though their reply would be absolutely irrelevant they think they are speaking on the same topic.

Symptoms:

  • Children are troubled in understanding the meaning of spoken words.
  • Their response to various queries is based on their assumption, rather than understanding the core of the subject.
  • They fail to interpret the gist, the core of any conversation.
  • They face difficulty in understanding abstract, emotional, and other words that express or talk about intensity, position, status etc.
  • They, at times take the literal meaning of words, which could mean something else contextually.
  • They have trouble interpreting sayings, and idioms.

Children with semantic problem should be taken to experts of speech and language pathologists who would help the correct the condition. Parents, family, school, friends, and peers should be sensitized towards the needs of these children and they should be helped out of it.

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