Communication Disorders

Children With Developmental Challenges 3(2+1)

Lesson 24 : Pervasive Developmental Disorders or Autism Spectrum Disorders

Communication Disorders

Children with autism spectrum disorders have difficulty with both verbal and non-verbal communication.

Speech problems
Problems with verbal communication are one sign of the autism spectrum disorders. Speech is absent in about 50 percent of classical autism cases. In other cases, kids may not start to talk until very late. Those with classical autism who do speak, often do so in odd or unusual ways. For example, children on the autism spectrum may:

  • Speak in an abnormal tone of voice, or with an odd rhythm or pitch.
  • End every sentence as if asking a question.
  • Use echolalia (the parrot-like repetition of the same words or phrases).
  • Respond to a question by repeating it, rather than answering it.
  • Refer to themselves in the third person.

Language comprehension
Language comprehension is also commonly impaired in children with autism spectrum disorders. Kids with autism may not understand simple directions or questions. Those who do have a firm grasp of spoken language often take what is said too literally. Metaphors and other figures of speech (such as "it's raining cats and dogs") can be confusing, and they are typically oblivious to attempts at humor, irony, and sarcasm. Kids with autism spectrum disorders often:

  • Have trouble starting a conversation or keeping it going.
  • Use language incorrectly (grammatical errors, wrong words).
  • Have difficulty communicating needs or desires.
  • Don’t understand simple statements or questions.
  • Confuse pronouns.

Nonverbal Communication
When kids with autism spectrum disorders do choose to interact with others, they sometimes come across as cold or "robot-like." But while they may appear emotionally flat, the reality is that autistic individuals are far from unfeeling. What can look like indifference or insensitivity is actually due to "mind blindness," or an inability to see things as other people do.

This makes the "give-and-take" of social interaction very difficult for children with autism spectrum disorders. Subtle social cues such as facial expressions, tone of voice, and gestures are often lost on them. They may also have trouble communicating through their own nonverbal behaviors. For example, your child may avoid eye contact, make very few gestures, or use facial expressions that don't match what he or she is saying.

Last modified: Friday, 13 April 2012, 11:31 AM