Tele-Collaboration in Speech and Hearing Sciences: Social Communication

Soc Com Model
- Behaviors
- Cognitive
- Language
- Processing

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  decorative cubeProcessing: Focus on Executive Function

There is growing consensus that successful social performance requires higher-order cognitive processing know as executive functioning. Executive functions are the decision-making and planning processes invoked at the outset of a task and in the face of novel challenges (Singer & Bashir, 1999). These processes encompass a range of abilities that overarch "all contexts and content domains" (Denckla & Reader, 1993; p. 443). As such, executive functions allow children to disengage from the immediate context and reason about interpersonal goals; a fundamental ability in forming and maintaining positive peer relationships. Language is a fundamental part of executive control (Denckla 1996, 1998).

Executive functioning is concerned with the ability to utilize information. In other words, these functions play a deciding role in how we use what we know. Higher-order executive functions guide one's behavior by:

  • Inhibiting actions
  • Restraining and delaying responses
  • Attending selectively
  • Setting goals
  • Planning strategically
  • Maintaining and shifting sets

The ability to use language in interpersonally appropriate ways implicates executive function. According to Tannock and Schachar (1996), functions that are involved in social communication include:

  • Recognition of the social and informational demands of the situation
  • Knowledge of appropriate linguistic forms that code underlying meanings
  • Ability to organize and express thoughts and ideas simultaneously through several modalities (e.g., lexical, syntactic, gesture, supersegmental features)
  • Ability to make rapid, "on-line" alterations according to real time changes in the communicative context

Dysfunction in any of these components, alone or in combination, may result in social communicative deficits.

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University of Washington, Dept. of Speech & Hearing Sciences, Tele-Collaboration Project. © 1999-2001, UW-SPHSC, including all photographs and images unless otherwise noted. Comments: tcollab@u.washington.edu