Semantic Pragmatic Disorder is not a formally recognized disorder in the DSM-IV-TR, and some researchers question its existence. However, speech therapists use it to describe individuals who have difficulty with how they use language. Semantics refer to the meaning of words, while pragmatics refer to how words are used in context. Individuals who are labeled as having this disorder have a near-normal vocabulary, use grammar appropriately, and have normal pronunciation. Their language problems lie in having difficulty with:
• Initiating conversation
• Sustaining conversation
• Shifting from topic to topic in conversation
• Using words out of context
Because it is unusual to find these types of language problems in the absence of a behavioral, emotional, or cognitive disorder, if your child has been identified as having Semantic Pragmatic Disorder or any speech or language impairment, it is important that she be evaluated by a child psychologist to determine if she also has a psychological or developmental disorder. When language problems interfere with basic conversation skills, social relationship difficulties automatically follow, sometimes making it difficult to determine if the language problems caused the social problems, or if the language problems are just a symptom of a more serious disorder.