Social Communication Disorder vs. Autistic Spectrum Disorder

Children who are experiencing social problems may appear to have Autistic  Spectrum Disorder (ASD), but some of these children fit the criteria for Social (pragmatic) Communication Disorder (SCD). Children with either ASD or SCD often have a corresponding Developmental Language Disorder, which also needs to be considered during the diagnosis and treatment process.

The most clearly defining factor between ASD and SCD is that those children who receive the Autistic Spectrum diagnosis show or have a history of restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviors, activities or interests. These might include having difficulty with transitions, lining up toys, extreme focus on a specific topics, etc. Children with SCD have social interaction and language difficulties that are similar to those that kids in the spectrum have without the restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior.

The approach to treatment can be similar and should support the social communication challenges of the children in varied situations. It is important to include peer opportunities and teach the peers how to initiate and maintain interaction with children who have social communication difficulties. This provides an opportunity to understand the strengths of friends with ASD and SCD and appreciate them.

(For more information see the article in the ASHA Leader magazine date April 2018)