What is the Difference between Social Communication Disorder and Autism Spectrum Disorder

The difference between Social communication disorder (SCD) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) relates the presence or absence of restrictive, repetitive behaviours. For a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder BOTH Social communication difficulties AND restrictive, repetitive behaviours must be present. The main difference with Social Communication Disorder is that the repetitive behaviours are NOT also occurring.

​If your child has at least two repetitive behaviours, it could point to a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). If not, it could be given a diagnosis of Social Communication Disorder (SCD).

social communication disorder

The DSM-V is the document that outlines the key criteria for both Social (Pragmatic) Communication Disorder and Autism Spectrum Disorder.

social communication disorder

Criteria for the diagnosis of Social Communication Disorder (SCD)

There are 4 key criteria that needs to be met for a child to be assigned a diagnosis of SCD”

  1. Persistent difficulties in the using verbal and nonverbal communication skills
  2. The reduced verbal and nonverbal communication skills are severe enough to functionally limit effective communication with others and impact on the child’s ability to interact in community activities appropriate for their age
  3. Difficulties are developmental emerging in the early years (even if they are not overtly detected until a later age)
  4. Difficulties are not linked to another medical or specific language difficulty.

Criteria 1 for SCD

Persistent difficulties in the social use of verbal and nonverbal communication:

  1. Reduced ability to use communication for social outcomes e.g., poor skills in saying hallo/ goodbye, sharing information with others and linking to the social context they are in.
  2. Difficulties in the ability to change communication to match context or conversational partner. They do not tend to change how they deliver the ideas for different listener needs (e.g., they do not speak differently in a classroom vs the playground; talking differently to a child than to an adult.
  3. Problems following conversation and storytelling structures (e.g., may be poor at taking turns in conversations, saying things in different ways if the listeners mis-understands you, starting, maintaining or ending conversations appropriately)
  4. Deficits understanding what is not stated clearly and literally (e.g., making inferences) and nonliteral or ambiguous meanings of language (e.g., idioms, humour, metaphors, multiple meanings that depend on the situation for interpretation).

Criteria 2 for SCD

Reduces Child’s ability to be involved in day to day activities.

The verbal and non-verbal communication concerns result in reducing the functional effectiveness of any communication attempts. There are difficulties with in areas such as social participation (playing with peers), social relationships and/or school achievement.

Criteria 3 for SCD

Symptoms can be found in the early development

Like the diagnosis of ASD, SCD symptoms are in the early developmental period. At times their symptoms are not obvious at the baby and infant stages. Once higher social expectations are place on a child as they get older, the symptoms may become evident. This criteria is also a criteria of ASD.

Criteria 4 for SCD

The symptoms are not attributable to another medical Condition

The social-pragmatic concerns observed cannot be demonstrated to be a result of neurological or medical conditions. They cannot be attributed to poor skills in specific communication concerns such as word structure and grammar. For the diagnosis of Social Communication Disorder (SCD) the presenting symptoms cannot more likely relating to autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disability), global developmental delay, or another mental concern.

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