Redbridge SERC

Semantic Pragmatic Disorder


Semantic = the relationship between words or sentences and their meanings

Pragmatic= making language work in context

Semantic Pragmatic Disorder  is a communication disorder. 

This condition can be described as the 'outer spectrum of Autism', as Autistic pupils will all have semantic pragmatic difficulties.

Fact sheets

Training / Help

SEaTSS can support students with this condition.

To refer to SEATSS please use this link:


Screenshot for video: 10 year old boy with Asperger’s Syndrome

10 year old boy with Asperger’s Syndrome

A ten year old boy talking on this clip demonstrating his ability to recall facts and information, but having some difficulties with answering less direct questions.

Learning Aids

Free Interactive Timetable

Available from: Free Interactive Timetable

Produced by the Down's Syndrome Association, this program can be downloaded and used to easily produce timetables with pictorial clues for young children and those with more complex difficulties. These timetables are great for sequencing simple events to aid memory…

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can students with Semantic Pragmatic Disorder be good at speaking?

    Students with S.P.D have a different style of learning language, and tend to memorise rather than knowing individual words. They can learn whole chunks of adult phrases, and because they are unsure which are the important elements they tend to learn everything accurately including intonation and the accent of the speaker.

    They can say much more than they understand, but they can speak in a flat or 'sing songy' voice when echoing other people's language. 

    Some students can present as egocentric as they only understand language from their own perspective.

  • What are signs of Segmantic Pragmatic Disorder in Primary aged children?
    • Fluent speaker but only wants to talk about subjects that interest them
    • Doesn't take turns in conversations
    • Poor eye contact/ facial expressions
    • Difficulty with abstract concepts
    • Doesn't ask the teacher for help
    • Can sound too grown up
    • Can appear rude
    • Obsessional questioning, answers don't satisfy 
    • Good at maths but difficulty with abstract symbols eg = X
    • Poor judge of personal space
    • Naive
    • Distractible
    • Dominates play or prefers to play on his own
    • Dislikes crowds eg assembly, parties
    • Difficulty with school dinners
    • Little empathy
  • What strategies can I use when supporting a pupil with Semantic Pragmatic Disorder?


  • give the child practical, hands-on tasks
  • provide a quiet, orderly environment
  • use visual clues whenever possible
  • break instructions into short sentences
  • keep to classroom routines as much as possible and help them to cope when change is unavoidable
  • avoid abstract concepts whenever possible (the child probably won’t understand ‘guess’ or ‘pretend’ and will find time words, such as ‘long ago’, problematical)
  • give literal instructions eg. ‘put the puzzles in the cupboard’ rather than ‘tidy away’
  • help them to learn strategies for socialising
  • provide them with a visual written or pictorial timetable
  • explain metaphors, sarcasm and jokes when they are used
  • build on their special interests
  • follow any given programmes such as from the speech and language therapist
  • give constant encouragement and praise.

  • What are signs of Segmantic Pragmatic Disorder in Nursery aged children?
    • Difficulty with play /negiotiation/sharing with other children
    • Social geeetings- needs to be prompted
    • Echoes conversations, stories, TV programmes
    • Only watches cartoon TV or animal programmes
    • Prefers to 'read' particular books
    • Delayed fine motor skills
    • Tamtrums prolonged
    • Good at jigsaws, colours, numbers and shapes
    • Dislikes dressing up
    • Prefers helping to play
    • Very active
    • Obsessional interests
  • What are the observable characteristics of Semantic Pragmatic Disorder?

    Pupils can:

    • Sound very grown-up 
    • Be fluent speaker, but on a topic of their choice
    • Difficulties giving specific information on one event 
    • No appropriate eye contact / facial expression exchange  
    • Difficulties with abstract concepts (next week; guess) 
    • May not ask for help  
    • Can appear rude, arrogant, gauche  
    • Late reader or very early reader, but little understanding
    • Can contrast between being a loner / over friendly
    • Can be anxious in crowds
    • Struggle with team games
    • Very active or over passive
  • Family Resources

    Contact a family


    A UK wide charity providing advice, information and support to parents of all disabled children. 

    A collection of different holidays for children who have a physical/ learning disability or medical


    A great link to a collection of opportunities for supportive holidays, grants and adapted accomodation.

    This link has a range of different opportunites listed and who is eligable to apply.

    Using this link will save you hours surfing the net.



    This article has been written by a parent.