The Autistic Spectrum Semantic Pragmatic Disorder


Semantic pragmatic disorder spdChildren with SPD find it more difficult to extract the central meaning or the saliency of an event. They tend to focus on detail instead, for example:

they may, find the duck hidden in the picture, but fail to grasp the situation or story in the picture, or point out the spot on your face before saying hello.

Current thinking is that children with SPD have many more problems than just speaking and understanding words; the underlying difficulty may be in the way they process information.


What is SPD? 

Often associated with the autistic spectrum disorders, semantic pragmatic disorder (SPD) is a communication difficulty, usually identified between 18 months and 2 years. Semantic refers to the meanings of words and sentences and pragmatic to understanding language in context.


Recognising SPD

Typically a child has good hearing, but few if any real words, and has problems with comprehension (but responds well to speech therapy).

By school age the child appears ‘different’ – sometimes appearing to follow very little conversation, while at other times giving a detailed explanation of an event.

Difficulties associated with SPD

  • Frequently they will have difficulty in processing all the information from a situation
  • will have problems understanding when and how to speak and respond appropriately, often with little regard to others.
  • In school they are often good at maths, science and Information and communications technology (ICT), but have great difficulty in writing a coherent sentence or playing with other children.
  • May have difficulty with sharing and taking turns.
  • Can appear aggressive, selfish, bossy, over-confident, shy or withdrawn.
  • In school, they may be misdiagnosed as children with behavioural problems.


Further reading

The Autistic Spectrum - Pervasive Developmental Disorder

ASD - Asperger's Syndrome And Autism


Help and advice

Statutory Assessments And Statements Of SEN

National Curriculum And P-levels For Children With SEN

Global Learning Difficulties

Moderate Learning Difficulties - MLD

Severe Learning Difficulties - SLD


School choice

Special Schools

School Admissions

Choosing SEN Provision

SEN Admission To Independent School

Unit and Resourced Provision For SEN

Choosing A School: First Steps For SEN

Choosing A School For SEN - On A Visit

16+ College Options For Young People With SEN

Classroom Help For Children With SEN

Special Schools Reviewed By The Good Schools Guide



The Speech And Language Therapist (SALT)

Occupational Therapy


What Play Teaches Us

Music Therapy

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