The Most Common Links Between Social Language Impairment & Bullying

Bullying and social language disorders can go hand-in-hand. Here are the most common links between the two and how you can help if a child is being bullied.

What is a pragmatic language impairment?

In order to understand the role pragmatics plays in bullying, we must first clearly understand the role pragmatics plays in social interaction. Pragmatic language includes a variety of skills and abilities. These include, but are not limited to the ability to talk to use language in different ways (inform, persuade, etc.), the ability to adjust to various audiences about different topics, and compliance with conversational rules (such as eye contact, facial expressions, etc.).  Children who struggle in these areas often have difficulty interacting with their peers. They can misunderstand social cues, make inappropriate or off topic comments, and have difficult making and maintaining friendships. Unfortunately, these children are also often the targets of bullies.

Recognizing the signs of bullying:

While some students will come forward and confide in adults, students with pragmatic language impairments may be less likely to do so for a variety of reasons. Due to this reason, the adults in these children’s lives must be especially vigilant for signs of bullying. Some signs may include sudden refusal or aversion to school, changes in mood or tantrums, or a sudden decrease in academic performance.

How to help a child that is being bullied:

Making the adults in the child’s life aware of the situation is absolutely vital to its resolution. This means contacting teachers, aids, playground monitors, etc. If goals regarding pragmatics need to be added to the child’s IEP, this step should also be taken. The use of a buddy system or bully prevention education can also help to resolve the problem. Teaching the child to advocate for him or herself can be a huge step in both resolving the problem and preventing future bullying. It is vital that the child knows that the bullying is not his or her fault. Parents and other adults should work to provide emotional support any child that is experiencing bullying.

Kaylee Kapalko, Speech-Language Pathology Intern