What is the developmental social-pragmatic model?
The developmental social-pragmatic model is an approach to intervention that uses everyday interactions between caregivers and children to promote communication. Parents and caregivers follow their children’s leads or interests and respond to children’s communication attempts.
The developmental social-pragmatic model isn’t an autism therapy in itself.
Who is the developmental social-pragmatic model for?
The developmental social-pragmatic model is used with autistic children. It’s recommended for children who already have some basic communication skills. Specific age limits might apply depending on the type of developmental social-pragmatic intervention being used.
What is the developmental social-pragmatic model used for?
The developmental social-pragmatic model is used to help autistic children start communication and engage in communication without being prompted. This model also aims to improve social interactions like turn-taking.
Where does the developmental social-pragmatic model come from?
The developmental social-pragmatic model comes from research on communication development in typical children. Research on its use for autistic children has been growing since 2005.
What is the idea behind the developmental social-pragmatic model?
The developmental social-pragmatic model is based on developmental theory and research on interactions between typically developing children and their caregivers.
The key idea behind the developmental social-pragmatic model is that caregivers can improve the development of children’s social communication through the way they respond when they’re interacting with their children.
Developmental social-pragmatic interventions look at the purpose of communication – that is, what children are trying to get out of any communications. This model rewards all communication efforts (words, gestures or sounds) to encourage children to keep trying.
These interventions don’t focus so much on the type of communication – that is, they’re not about turning nonverbal communication into verbal communication or teaching a specific way of communicating.
What does the developmental social-pragmatic model involve?
Interventions using the developmental social-pragmatic model typically happen in a child’s home. Parents or other primary caregivers usually deliver the interventions.
In a typical developmental social-pragmatic intervention, parents might create a setting that interests the child. For example, they might set up a play area with the child’s preferred toys. Then parents:
- encourage the child to interact – for example, by putting a favourite toy out of reach, so the child needs to ask for it
- respond to every communication attempt – for example, they give the child the toy regardless of how they ask for it (it doesn’t matter whether the child grunts, points or speaks)
- might model another way of communicating where the purpose is more clear
- use words to express their feelings and label how the child might be feeling – for example, ‘I’m really happy you asked for that toy. It looks like you feel happy too’
- adjust how they interact (based on the child’s developmental level) to ensure the child understands.
Developmental social-pragmatic interventions can take a lot of time and involve many hours a day. Depending on the goals set for a child, this approach could go on for several years.
The cost of a developmental social-pragmatic intervention depends on the type of intervention.
You might be able to include the cost of using developmental social-pragmatic interventions in children’s NDIS plans. You can contact the NDIS to find out.
Does the developmental social-pragmatic model work?
Some research has shown that this model has positive effects, particularly for foundation communication skills, like attention and joint attention. Research also suggests that the model helps parents get better at interacting with their children.
More high-quality studies are needed.
Some of the techniques used in this model are based on ABA principles, which are well supported by research.
Who practises the developmental social-pragmatic model?
Parent education, training, support and involvement
If your child is using a developmental social-pragmatic intervention, you usually play an active role because these interventions typically happen in the home. Training and other supports might be available, depending on the intervention.
Where can you find a practitioner?
If you’re interested in the developmental social-pragmatic model, it’s a good idea to talk about these interventions with your GP or one of the other professionals working with your child. You could also talk about them with your NDIA planner, NDIS early childhood early intervention (ECEI) coordinator or NDIS local area coordinator (LAC), if you have one.
There are many therapies for autism. They range from those based on behaviour and development to those based on medicine or alternative therapy. Our article on types of interventions for autistic children takes you through the main therapies, so you can better understand your child’s options.