Social Communication Disorder vs Autism Spectrum Disorder in Pediatric ABA Therapy

It can be difficult to navigate the world of autism spectrum disorder, as there is so much information to learn, and the resources seem to be ever-expanding. Recently, social communication disorder (SCD) was added to the DSM-5 (Diagnostic & Statistics Manual-5) and individuals who experience this disorder may exhibit many features of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Due to the many similarities, parents of children with ASD or social communication disorder may have many questions about how these conditions differ. So, how is social communication disorder different from autism spectrum disorder?

What is social communication disorder?
Symptoms of social communication disorder include issues with social interactions, understanding social situations, and using social language (pragmatics). Symptoms of social communication disorder affect both verbal and nonverbal communication, so several skills are examined when a child is tested for social communication disorder.

What skills are affected by social communication disorder?
SCD can result in the following behaviors in children: issues making friends, using inappropriate responses, making inappropriate gestures, issues taking turns, and many more.

How is social communication disorder different from autism spectrum disorder?
While children with ASD exhibit many of the same above-referenced symptoms of social communication disorder, children with ASD will exhibit an additional symptom: the repetition of specific behaviors (or restricted behaviors). This means that a professional must first determine whether the child is on the autism spectrum before suggesting a diagnosis of social communication disorder. However, if a child does have a diagnosis of ASD, it is still possible that they will also experience symptoms of social communication disorder.

Evaluating for social communication disorder
The Social Responsiveness ScaleTM is one tool that can be used to determine whether a child is showing symptoms of social communication disorder. This diagnostic tool allows parents and professionals to determine whether symptoms fall under autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or social communication disorder and also tracks the progress of the child throughout applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy. Speech-language pathologists are often able to provide a diagnosis and treat children who have a diagnosis of social communication disorder.

How can ABA therapy help children with social communication disorder?
Children with SCD can benefit from ABA therapy, as they would have the opportunity to build positive socially significant skills with the support of an ABA therapist. ABA therapy would help children with a diagnosis of social communication disorder to build social skills and identify how different settings impact certain behaviors. ABA therapy would also help children learn to generalize these pivotal skills to all environments.


Are you interested in learning more about social communication disorder and ABA therapy?
Are you interested in ABA services for your child in the Chicago area? Contact us or call (773) 630-4400 to learn more about the range of services we provide for children who are on the autism spectrum at Chicago ABA Therapy, including applied behavior analysis therapy, occupational therapy, and speech-language pathology.