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The relationship between social communication disorder and DLD

Ellis Weismer, S., Tomblin, J. B., Durkin, M. S., Bolt, D., & Palta, M. (2021). A preliminary epidemiologic study of social (pragmatic) communication disorder in the context of developmental language disorder. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders.

Aim of the paper:

Social (pragmatic) communication disorder (SCD) is often confused with other disorders such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or developmental language disorder (DLD). This is because of similarity of symptoms across these disorders. Considering that SCD falls under the category of a communication disorder, it is important to study SCD in relation to language disorders to increase our understanding. This study aimed to look at the relation of SCD to DLD in eighth grade children. This study also investigated the prevalence of SCD and its risk factors.

Key term:

Social (pragmatic) communication disorder (SCD): characterised by persistent difficulty in using verbal and nonverbal communication for social purposes, leading to limitations in communication abilities, social skills, academic performance, and/or employment (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).

What was found:

· When the concomitant definition of SCD was used (i.e., social communication deficits could occur along with deficits in vocabulary or grammar), SCD was much more common in children with a history of DLD than those without DLD.

· When the discrepant definition of SCD was used (i.e., social communication skills were disproportionately lower than vocabulary or grammatical abilities), the prevalence of SCD was equal for children with and without a history of DLD.

· The estimated prevalence of SCD was approximately 7 to 11%.

· A history of language disorder at 5 years of age was a significant risk factor for SCD in adolescence when the concomitant definition of SCD was used.

· Male sex was a significant risk factor for SCD when the discrepant definition of SCD was used.

What does this mean?

The findings suggest that the relationship between SCD and DD in children can differ depending on which definition was used to identify SCD. As both children with and without a history of DLD can develop SCD, a broad-based and thorough examination would be needed to diagnose SCD accurately. Considering that the estimated prevalence of SCD in this study was higher than previous studies, it may also be beneficial to increase the availability of educational support and clinical services that children with deficits in social communication can access.

Where can I read this paper?

This paper is not open access. If you wish to read the full paper, please email and request a copy of the paper.


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