We may think language consists solely of what we say, but there is so much more to it than that! Many times, the way we say things is as important as the content. Additionally, body language, facial expressions and all of the other dynamics that accompany what we say can impact the message. With all those factors to consider, no wonder we human beings so often misunderstand each other! If your language (auditory comprehension, verbal expression, reading comprehension, or written expression) impact your ability to appropriately interact with others (pragmatics) are impacted, we can treat those needs by identifying what is breaking down and address what is most important to you to improve those skills.
Along with the words we use, we must also understand what we hear and attach meaning to it, technically known as auditory comprehension. Tone of voice, pauses between words, emphasis used, and the rhythm and pattern of speech will all play a part in delivering and understanding the true meaning of other others.
The ability to accurately and appropriately use spoken language to express our observations, needs, thoughts and feelings is known as verbal expression. From a very early age, when a toddler says, “dada,” ““mine” or “no,” they are building the foundation for verbal expression, which will grow more sophisticated and complex as the brain’s language centers develop and their experiences grow. Often verbal expression can be impacted secondary to stroke or other neurological diagnoses. Someone can also be very verbal, but have difficulty organizing and verbalizing those thoughts to share the message effectively. Verbal expression becomes so central to who we are that it becomes extremely traumatizing when conditions such as brain injury or Parkinson’s disease for instance threaten to silence us.
Reading comprehension is the ability to actively interpret and understand what is read. As we read, our amazing brain is not only stringing together sounds and words at a lightning-fast pace, it is also assigning meaning to those words and phrases so we can understand and remember what is being read. In order to understand written content as we process it, we not only need to possess strong language skills, but also a working knowledge of people, objects and events. The world around us helps to give context and perspective to what we read. Reading comprehension is necessary for many entry-level jobs and the academic skills required for post-secondary education. Fortunately, reading comprehension can be enhanced greatly by learning new skills.
Written expression is the ability to convey meaning through writing. Yes, it requires the building blocks driven home by our English teachers: spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and grammar. The truly challenging part of written expression is to tap into those high-level composition skills, such as planning, organization, content creation and revision to convey information effectively.
Pragmatics is a fancy word that simply refers to the verbal and nonverbal aspects of social language. When someone exhibits impaired pragmatics, which commonly occurs with individuals diagnosed with mild Autism Spectrum Disorder, the socially accepted rules of language and communication are not naturally applied. Personal space when speaking to others, tone, volume, or allowing the other person to contribute to the conversation – may not be understood. Without consciously intending to do so, the person may be incorrectly perceived as being rude, inappropriate or self-centered, when the real issue is a struggle with pragmatics. A breakdown in pragmatics can negatively affect interactions and relationships with others.