Why Speech-Language Pathologists Are Experts in Social Skills

Better Hearing and Speech Month Edition – Social Communication Disorders

Every May speech-language pathologists celebrate our month. The American Speech-Language and Hearing Association (ASHA) designates May as “Better Hearing and Speech Month” to increase awareness of our complex profession. SLPs are trained in many areas that we often need to clarify what we actually do. In a nutshell, we work with clients ages birth to 99+ to develop communication skills. This can include:

  • speech development
  • language development
  • cognitive development

We are also experts in feeding and swallowing disorders in children and adults as well as fluency and voice disorders. Typically an SLP will find a specialty, such as adult swallowing or child language disorders, and stick with that area for the majority of their therapies. For example, my specialty area has evolved to social communication. Which is the theme of the BLOG post this month!

Some people find it surprising that an SLP works on social skills. However, it is almost a given for our profession to address social skills. Here is why:

There are five components of social communication. The development of social communication begins at birth in early speech and language development. (Remember, we are experts in the area of speech and language development!) Additionally, social skills depend upon and build on language. For instance, if a child has difficulty developing language concepts (prepositions- on, under, behind, etc.) they will likely have difficulty following rules of play or a game that involves understanding those prepositions. SLPs can identify the breakdown and fill in the gaps with therapy techniques and strategies to build the language component and develop social skills simultaneously. I like to think that we are “rockstars” and expert “multi-taskers” since so much of what we target in therapy piggybacks on another skill set.

Treating social communication disorders requires a multi-tasking approach because of the complex nature of the skill set. Something as simple as playing a game of UNO® requires many language, cognitive and social skills. Check this out:

  • Turn taking
  • Joint attention to task (to know when to take a turn)
  • Eye contact (to know when a peer has one card left)
  • Personal space (so you do not get too close and see the other player’s cards)
  • Following multi-step directions
  • Following rules of a game
  • Understanding the rules of a game
    • Understand and use directional words
    • Understand and use prepositions
    • Understand and use basic concepts (colors, numbers)
  • Demonstrate good sportsmanship
  • Identify emotions
  • Understand the feelings of others and self
  • Regulate emotions and reactions to the outcome of a game
  • Use and understand spoken language of peers during the game

So as you can see, there are many abilities needed to play a simple game!

The five components of social communication were released in 2013 by the ASHA in an effort to help SLPs assess skills and develop goals accordingly. The five components are:

  1. Pragmatics (Non-Verbal Communication)
  2. Pragmatics (Verbal Communication)
  3. Language Processing-Expressive & Receptive Language
  4. Social Interaction
  5. Social Cognition

Within each of the components are skill sets that are demonstrated in social communication. This is helpful in determining a child’s deficits and developing goals for those deficits.

The chart can be seen here: https://www.asha.org/uploadedFiles/ASHA/Practice_Portal/Clinical_Topics/Social_Communication_Disorders_in_School-Age_Children/Components-of-Social-Communication.pdf

I have also developed a free handout based on the chart for parents and educators.  The handout can be accessed here: https://www.communicationissocial.com/store/p15/Components_of_Social_Communication.html#/

To learn more about how speech-language pathologists conduct the social skills groups within the Social Butterflies Club, contact us at info@socialbutterfliesclub.com.