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Kids in Bouncy Castle

What is Social-Pragmatic Language Therapy?


This type of language therapy focuses on how we use language in social contexts. Some people might have difficulty interpreting others' body language, tone of voice, and humor, and not feel comfortable in a social scenario. Others might have a lot to say about a topic, but feel like they can't quite find the right way to bring it up and share it with a group. 

We take a neuro-affirming approach to Social-Pragmatic Language Therapy. This means that we do not teach people to conform to the unspoken rules that neurotypical people follow. Traditional social skills therapy, where people were taught how to behave "appropriately" based on a what the neuromajority deems as "normal," was ableist. It led to people learning to "mask" their natural way of being, which has been linked to harmful mental health consequences, and is something that should be approached with care. When we know better, we must do better. Our approach takes into account the perspectives of Autistic and Neurodivergent self-advocates and researchers, with a goal of shared joy and comfort in social contexts. 

What we do: 

  • We welcome our clients to be their authentic selves and show up in whatever way feels right. 

  • We build upon individual strengths and leverage their interests to make sessions fun and meaningful. 

  • We explore the Double Empathy Problem and practice perspective taking skills. 

  • We teach about figurative language such as metaphors, similes, idioms, and sarcasm. 

  • We foster self-advocacy and self-determination. 

  • We respect bodily autonomy and teach about consent. 

  • We collaborate with Occupational Therapists to promote interoception and regulation skills. 

  • We practice naming body sensations and how they correlate to feelings and emotions. 

  • We use visuals and educational materials created by Autistic and neurodivergent creators, like Autism Level Up! and SEA Bridges. 

What we don't do: 

  • We don't "treat" autism and we don't "train" social skills. 

  • We don't teach individuals to "mask," or suppress their natural responses in order to appear "neurotypical." 

  • We don't demand eye contact. 

  • We don't teach "whole body listening" as there is no one "right" way to listen. 

  • We don't use the Social Thinking curriculum, as this often casts a negative light on the non-neuronormative responses and behaviors. We don't use their terminology of "expected" and "unexpected" behaviors or the "unthinkables." 

  • We don't manipulate behaviors with extrinsic rewards or token systems. 

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