Communication and Autism

Ever wonder about the prevalence of speech disorders and how they can impact your child’s behavior and learning?  According to the National Institute of Deafness and other Communication Disorders(NIDCD)  the prevalence of speech sound disorders in young children is 8 to 9 percent. By the first grade, roughly 5 percent of children have noticeable speech disorders; the majority of these speech disorders have no known cause. How does autism fit into these statistics?  Let’s look at communication issues and how they play a role in autism or autism spectrum disorders(ASD).

The word “autism” has its origin in the Greek word “autos,” which means “self.” Children with ASD often are self-absorbed and seem to exist in a private world where they are unable to successfully communicate and interact with others. Children with ASD may have difficulty developing language skills and understanding what others say to them. They also may have difficulty communicating nonverbally, such as through hand gestures, eye contact, and facial expressions. (Source: NIDCD)

Not every child with ASD will have a language problem but here are some of the common communication problems encountered by children with autism.

  • Nonverbal conversation skill Issues – Children with autism are often unable to use gestures or eye contact to make their point or get their feelings and needs known.  Occupational, physical and speech therapies can help the child practice situations where mannerisms and facial expressions are appropriate.
  • Repetitive Language Issues – Autistic children may say things over and over that have no meaning or possibly repeat what they hear(called echolalia). Other children will use robot like speech, repeat phrases even when not appropriate or speak in high pitched or loud tones.
  • Language Development Issues – Many children with ASD develop some speech and language skills, but not to a normal level of ability, and their progress is usually uneven.
  • Specific Interests – Approximately 10% of autistic children have very specific interests in which they can speak at  length about. Unfortunately carrying on a two way conversation about that same topic may not be as easy.

Speech disorders have a specific set of treatments to improve the disorder.  Speech therapies can help children with the daily frustrations of getting their point across.