Early Childhood Intervention: Module One – Typical and Atypical Development


Language experts use the term “pragmatic language1 to refer to how we use language for social reasons. That is, when we use language to communicate our thoughts and ideas to those around us – and is not simply making sounds.

Some children may not know how to use language socially. Some signs of pragmatic language difficulties may include:

  • Having little or no turn-taking skills;
  • Getting very close to others when speaking, almost face to face;
  • Having little or no eye contact with others, not even caregivers, siblings or peers when communicating with them (unless dictated by one’s culture);
  • Finding it difficult to understand and answer questions after age 6;
  • Not taking turns when speaking, as if speaking in ‘circles’ after age 3;
  • Giving brief and short answers to all questions, after age 5;
  • Jumping from one topic in a conversation to another with no transition;
  • Not keeping up with the topic of the conversation, or “going off on tangents”.

Children who cannot make their language “work” for them in these ways find this very frustrating. They will need as much professional support as children who cannot understand or speak, or with receptive or expressive language delays.

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