Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication, and behavioral challenges. The term “spectrum” refers to the wide range of symptoms, skills, and levels of impairment that people with ASD can have. The word “autism” has its origin in the Greek word “autos,” which means “self.” Children with ASD are often self-absorbed and seem to exist in a private world in which they have limited ability 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 often have difficulty communicating nonverbally, such as through hand gestures, eye contact, and facial expressions. The ability of children with ASD to communicate and use language depends on their intellectual and social development. Some children with ASD may not be able to communicate using speech or language, and some may have very limited speaking skills. Others may have rich vocabularies and be able to talk about specific subjects in great detail. Many have problems with the meaning and rhythm of words and sentences. They also may be unable to understand body language and the meanings of different vocal tones. Taken together, these difficulties affect the ability of children with ASD to interact with others, especially people their own age.
ASPERGER’S SYNDROME – COMMUNICATION ISSUES
Aspergers syndrome is at the milder end of the autism spectrum. Where a child with autism may have great difficulty communicating or be mute, a child with Asperger’s will generally be able to communicate but experience problems in social interaction, particularly with peers. These problems can be severe or mild depending on the individual. Children with Asperger’s syndrome are often the target of bullying at school due to their unusual behavior, language, interests, and impaired ability to perceive and respond in socially expected ways to nonverbal cues, particularly in interpersonal conflict. Children with Asperger’s syndrome may be extremely literal and may have difficulty interpreting and responding to sarcasm or banter. Below are some patterns of language use and behaviors that are often found in children with ASD and Asperger’s syndrome.
- Repetitive or rigid language.
- Narrow interests and exceptional abilities.
- Uneven language development.
- Poor nonverbal conversation skills
How are the speech and language problems of ASD and Asperger’s syndrome treated?
If a doctor suspects a child has ASD or another developmental disability, he or she usually will refer the child to a variety of specialists, including a speech-language pathologist. This is a health professional trained to treat individuals with voice, speech, and language disorders. The speech-language pathologist will perform a comprehensive evaluation of the child’s ability to communicate, and will design an appropriate treatment program. In addition, the speech-language pathologist might make a referral for a hearing test to make sure the child’s hearing is normal. Teaching children with ASD and Asperger’s syndrome to improve their communication skills is essential for helping them reach their full potential. There are many different approaches, but the best treatment program begins early, during the preschool years, and is tailored to the child’s age and interests. Some children with ASD may never develop oral speech and language skills. For these children, the goal may be learning to communicate using gestures, such as sign language. For others, the goal may be to communicate by means of a symbol system in which pictures are used to convey thoughts. Symbol systems can range from picture boards or cards to sophisticated electronic devices that generate speech through the use of buttons to represent common items or actions