Semantic Pragmatic Language Disorder

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  • Students with SPLD struggle to develop semantic skills (understanding and using the meanings of words and phrases) and pragmatic skills (knowing what to say when, and how to say it to other people, the way we use language) and struggles in these areas of language. Acquiring new vocabulary and understanding its meaning is challenging, and social discussion is difficult - learners can come over as brusque.
  • SPLD is considered to be on the continuum of Autistic Spectrum Disorders.
  • Learners with Semantic Pragmatic Disorder may exhibit:
    • delayed language development
    • learning to talk by memorising phrases, instead of putting words together freely
    • repeating phrases out of context, especially snippets remembered from television programmes
    • muddling up 'I' and 'you'
    • problems with understanding questions, particularly questions involving 'how' and 'why'
    • difficulty following conversations

Classroom strategies

  • Do not be deceived by his memory skills, make sure he 'understands'.
  • Use his visual skills and sense of order to develop understanding.
  • Extra help with correct letter formation.
  • Help him write sentences based on what the child has just done - with props e.g. written sequence of a practical activity.
  • If he has any obsessive or special interests, rather than ignoring them, it may be possible for him to develop them so he incorporates some useful knowledge.
  • Spelling rules - taught systematically.
  • Reading - help comprehension by reading the story to child first, and then discussing the text and asking him questions which require him to infer or predict but be prepared to give him the answers. Finally, ask the child to read the story to you.
  • Allow him to read some books above his comprehension level if he is hyperlexic so he feels as good as the other children in the class.
  • Help him translate mathematical problems like "If I have two sweets and you give me two more" into higher levels of representation e.g. 2+2 (make sure he understands the link).
  • Explain symbols + If these are difficult for him let him make his own and change them gradually.
  • Systematic help with 'time' based on school routine. Make sure you have a clock with numbers (one hand at a time).
  • Value of money (real money)
  • Make sure he understands the difference between words like a few, a lot, more, more than, each, all, both, how many, count
  • If he is having problems with 'base 10' concepts. He may need to have special help with understanding concepts like eleven (one T. one) or twenty-three (two T. three) etc.
  • He may need extra help with estimating and measuring.

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