How to improve your child’s desire to be social and pragmatic language


(a truly embedded speech therapy session)

This post goes out to my beautiful daughter Katie Lila….and also to a little girl I work with…thank you to her mama for allowing me to post her name here: Taylor.  So thank you to both Katie and Taylor.  What is so incredible about the “speech session” below is that Katie was the “therapist“…and in watching her interact with Taylor it was a very strong reminder that therapy really needs to be embedded into the families daily routine..and that it is our job as therapists to teach parents to become their child’s best therapists….so that they are constantly using speech and language strategies in their daily routines to help elicit language. 

What I also have learned from the many special educators I have co-treated with over the years is that we need to “pair” ourselves with a desired activity…so that the little one we are working with then has more of a desire to engage in an activity with us….this is especially important when the little one is struggling with her desire to be social and interact with her peers, her parents, siblings or family members.  The goal is to find the desired activity… that it is motivating enough for the little one to show a “desire” to interact. 

I also wanted to post some information about pragmatic language….what pragmatic language means…and how we can address this component of language development during play with the little ones we see for therapy….or as parents to be embedded into their daily routine.  Please read the information below regarding pragmatic language. 



Social Language Use (Pragmatics)

You have invited your friend over for dinner. Your child sees your friend reach for some cookies and says, “Better not take those, or you’ll get even bigger.” You’re embarrassed that your child could speak so rudely. However, you should consider that your child may not know how to use language appropriately in social situations and did not mean harm by the comment.

An individual may say words clearly and use long, complex sentences with correct grammar, but still have a communication problem – if he or she has not mastered the rules for social language known as pragmatics . Adults may also have difficulty with pragmatics, for example, as a result of a brain injury or stroke.

Pragmatics involve three major communication skills:

  • Using language for different purposes, such as
    • greeting (e.g., hello, goodbye)
    • informing (e.g., I’m going to get a cookie)
    • demanding (e.g., Give me a cookie)
    • promising (e.g., I’m going to get you a cookie)
    • requesting (e.g., I would like a cookie, please)


  • Changing language according to the needs of a listener or situation, such as
    • talking differently to a baby than to an adult
    • giving background information to an unfamiliar listener
    • speaking differently in a classroom than on a playground


  • Following rules for conversations and storytelling, such as
    • taking turns in conversation
    • introducing topics of conversation
    • staying on topic
    • rephrasing when misunderstood
    • how to use verbal and nonverbal signals
    • how close to stand to someone when speaking
    • how to use facial expressions and eye contact

These rules may vary across cultures and within cultures. It is important to understand the rules of your communication partner.

An individual with pragmatic problems may:

  • say inappropriate or unrelated things during conversations
  • tell stories in a disorganized way
  • have little variety in language use

The above was sourced from:


 Okay….so now back to the therapy session my Katie had with Taylor….note that Taylor struggles with pragmatic language and her desire to be social…however…she has made and is making significant progress…everyday making steps in the right direction…showing more of a desire to be social…and in her ability to functionally use her language to get what she wants and needs….remember the examples given above:

  • greeting (e.g., hello, goodbye)
  • informing (e.g., I’m going to get a cookie)
  • demanding (e.g., Give me a cookie)
  • promising (e.g., I’m going to get you a cookie)
  • requesting (e.g., I would like a cookie, please)


Back to the session again…..I was at baseball for my Andrew’s game…and Taylor and her mama happened to be there….Katie and Taylor ran off and played close by us…but near the woods on top of the pitcher’s mound…..and Katie decided that she and Taylor were going to make a salad (they picked twigs, branches, leaves and grass)…put it on the pitcher’s mound…and then topped it with home-made Rainbow Magic Sauce….how cute they were together….and Taylor’s mama said that Katie sounded like a mini-Kim…meaning…she was using the right language strategies to elicit spontaneous language…asking questions…but not too many….doing a lot of commenting…describing the play…and being silly and fun….throwing the leaves up in the air…making the salad…and then adding the Rainbow Magic Sauce.  Well Taylor just thought this was wonderful…you could see it in her eyes….she was making great eye contact…engaging in a little back and forth conversation….adding to the conversation…laughing…answering some yes/no questions…and truly DESIRING to be social with Katie!  

And….an added bonus:…..Andrew has a baseball game right now as I am typing…Greg took him to the game…so I am home with the my other children….well Taylor happens to be at the baseball field again with her mama….and her mama just texted me….and what did Taylor ask: Where’s Katie?  How amazing…looking to be social with my Katie…desiring the social interaction…initiating a conversation with her mother…asking a question. 

What you have read above is huge progress for Taylor….and makes me very happy and proud.  What you also have read is how we can easily embed strategies into any activity……and you also have read how Katie paired herself with a very motivating activity…so that Taylor truly had the desire to interact and play with her.  And how wonderful it is that today Taylor wants to make Rainbow Magic Sauce again….to be topped onto a delicious salad made of: twigs, branches, leaves and grass…yummy.

Oh….I should end the post with this….after the salad was made…Katie decided that they should throw the salad up into the air… as she got ready…Katie picked some salad up in her hands….so did Taylor….and Katie counted: one….two….and then Taylor added the three…making great eye contact….laughing….smiling….and then the two of them threw the salad in the air…it was just adorable.

~The power of Rainbow Magic Sauce~
















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About Kim

My name is Kim Marino and I have been practicing as a licensed speech and language pathologist since 1993. I work on Long Island providing diagnostic evaluations and services to children from birth to age 21. My experience is vast and am proud to say that I work with children that may present with articulation and phonological concerns, oral motor feeding concerns, Down Syndrome feeding, cognitive rehabilitation, auditory processing delays, receptive language delays, cleft palate feeding and sound development and expressive language delays. Most importantly, I am the mother of four amazing children and am happily married to my childhood sweetheart. I feel blessed to have my four children and so lucky to share this journey in life with my husband. I always had it somewhere in my head that I wanted to develop a blog or a website of some sort so that I could provide families with an additional that parents could help their little ones become a better communicator. And as I was developing this blog....I realized that I also needed to share the stories about my life and my children....and the funny things along the way that help to keep me smiling. Whether you are a working mother or not...finding balance between home, children and life can be a challenge....I hope that my blog helps to bring a smile to your face..and also some tools to help you help your little or big one. I hope you enjoy! Kim
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