The American Psychiatric Association published this new edition of its diagnostic manual in May 2013. It provides healthcare providers with new guidelines for diagnosing mental and behavioral conditions. SCD encompasses problems with social interaction, social understanding, and pragmatics. Pragmatics refers to using language in proper context. For example, it’s important for children to develop the ability to use language differently when playing with, say, a younger child versus a teacher. The addition of SCD to the DSM-5 accompanied a major revamping of the manual’s diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Field tests of the new criteria indicated that some children who would have received a diagnosis of autism under DSM-IV (the previous edition) would instead receive the new diagnosis of SCD. But while SCD is new to the DSM manual, it’s not new to speech-language pathologists. We have the training and experience to help.
SCD is diagnosed based on difficulties with both verbal and non-verbal social communication skills. These skills include:
Like SCD, autism involves difficulty with social communication skills. But autism has the additional defining characteristic of restricted and/or repetitive behaviors. So an evaluation must rule out autism before reaching a diagnosis of SCD. This differential diagnosis can be difficult because many symptoms and behaviors overlap between ASD and SCD. In addition, SCD can occur alongside other developmental issues such as language impairment, learning disabilities, speech sound disorder and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
There are many activities you can do at home to encourage social communication skills in line with the goals you develop with your child’s therapist. For example:
Try extending this to real-life situations, privately discussing what a friend or sibling might be feeling and why.
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