I’ll be completely honest here….this has been a huge learning curve for me! I’ve been learning from my students and wonderful co-workers, and I’ll share what I have learned so far with you.
The actual definition of pragmatic language is the social use of language.
When I worked in schools, I thought...yeah, I know pragmatic language. I just need to teach kids how to say “hi,” use eye contact, and answer questions. Done!
Well, it is more complex that that. There are many aspects to social language that lie beneath the surface.
For example, saying “hi” isn’t just saying “hi.” A child says “hi” differently depending on his/her communication partners (friends, teachers, parents). Some times it‘s socially acceptable to wave to friends and sometimes it is acceptable to say “hi” with a hug but this will depend on the level of the friendship and the comfortable level of the communication partner.
You are getting the idea...right?!
To add another layer, there are the goals of the student. Some students WANT to make friends and some would rather be alone. This is a personal choice and both are okay. It is important not to put our social goals on to our students.
Humans use language for many social purposes such as:
These are just a few areas of pragmatic language. The tricky part about pragmatics is that they can’t be tested with a paper and pencil. Pragmatic language skills completely depend on the social situation.
Some children with pragmatic language difficulties KNOW what they are supposed to do, but can’t carry out the activity in an actual situation.
There is NO COOKIE cutter program for this area of language. Treatment depends on the child’s skills, goals, and language abilities.
It is always a good rule of thumb to model:
These language areas are always needed to function in society!