“Speech and Language Services Include Pragmatic Language”
Heather M. Hulse, JD, MA, MS
Pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Act (“IDEA”), school districts are responsible for providing Speech and Language services to students who qualify for such related services. Students often receive Speech services for articulation issues and Language services for Expressive/Receptive Language concerns. However, school districts often fail to provide much needed Pragmatic Language services.
Pragmatic Language is social language used in everyday interactions. It includes not only the words we use to communicate with each other, but also how we use those words, as well as non-verbal expressions and gestures. Pragmatic Language involves knowing what is appropriate and not appropriate to communicate in social situations.
Pragmatic Language includes: conversational speech, turn-taking, topic introduction, maintaining conversation, catering conversation based upon situations, utilizing strategies for gaining attention, responding to others’ expressions, facial expressions, body language, and personal space.
Many students with Autism, Asperger’s Disorder, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Language Disorders, and Emotional Disorders often have deficits in areas of Pragmatic Language. Students with deficits in areas of Pragmatic Language can learn these skills using research-based programs designed to address these areas. School districts are required to provide appropriate research-based programming in Pragmatic Language to students that have deficits in these areas. Parents with concerns regarding their child’s Pragmatic Language skills should request a Speech and Language evaluation to specifically assess areas of Pragmatic Language. If the assessment yields Pragmatic Language deficits, parents should request Speech and Language services that include appropriate research-based programming in Pragmatic Language. School Districts are obligated to provide these services when they are needed.