Does My Preschooler Need Speech Therapy – Pragmatics Edition

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A Guide for Parents

Hi All! Hope you’re enjoying the last long days of Seattle summer. As we approach the start of kindergarten, we know many of you have questions about speech and language development in your preschoolers, specifically how they use their language with others and in group settings, AKA pragmatic language. 

Pragmatic language skills involve the way we use language to communicate with various people in various situations, and our ability to access words, sentences, stories, for different reasons (e.g., asking questions, telling stories, explaining why we don’t like something). We often call pragmatic language “social communication”. From understanding social cues and advocating for needs, to engaging in conversations, these skills play a vital role in your child’s interactions with the world around them. Read below for some characteristics of pragmatic language that can help you determine if your preschooler might benefit from support in developing their pragmatic language skills before heading to kindergarten.

-your preschooler appears to want to interact with others, but may not use words or gestures to initiate play.

-your preschooler has a hard time using words for a lot of different reasons (to ask questions, to answer questions, to say they don’t like something, to tell a joke, to ask for something, to get another kid’s attention, etc.)

-your preschooler has difficulty understanding or missing others nonverbal communication (facial expression, tone of voice, body language, gestures) such as not understanding that waving a hand means “come play” or putting hands up in the air means “I don’t know”. 

-your preschooler has challenges making early inferences in books and in play (e.g., understanding that another child crying, rubbing their knee, and sitting next to an overturned bike probably means that child fell and hurt themselves). 

-your preschooler is not able to verbalize or gain access to what they need in the moment of frustration (e.g., yelling and biting to communicate “I don’t like that).

We also want to make sure to mention that of course these types of challenges will show up in every child and pretty much every human (like I can take what feels like a million years to get a joke sometimes aka trouble with inference), and just because your preschooler has a hard time with this stuff doesn’t mean they automatically need speech therapy. However, if you are feeling like it’s getting in the way of them living their best life, and you would like guidance on how to get to them there we are here to help you. It’s our job to empower you to help your little one navigate social situations with ease and foster meaningful connections with others. Let’s celebrate every step of your child’s language journey and ensure they have the tools they need to communicate effectively and thrive in the world around them. 

Natalie