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Autistic spectrum

Autistic Spectrum Disorder is a label which covers a spectrum of difficulties in socialization, communication and behavior. As the name "spectrum disorder" suggests, Autistic Spectrum Disorder applies to a number of conditions that share some characteristics such as Autism, Asperger Syndrome and Pragmatic Language Impairment or Semantic Pragmatic disorder.

Difficulties in communication are seen as one of the essential diagnostic features of Autistic Spectrum Disorders and often it is the delay or atypical path of language acquisition that is the most visible for parents and the first sign that their child has a difficulty.

The communication / language problems in Autistic Spectrum Disorder vary significantly from one individual to another. Some maybe unable to speak, whereas others may have extensive vocabularies and maybe very articulate about topics of special interests whilst they have great difficulty in social conversations. Most people with Autistic spectrum Disorders manifest problems in both verbal and non verbal communication.

Children and young people with Autistic Spectrum Disorders have the following communication characteristics. (Used in ICD -10: WHO 1992 and DSM-IV: APA 1994 based on the triad of impairment)

  • Delay in or total lack of the development of spoken language, not accompanied by attempt to compensate through alternative modes of communication, due to lack of appreciation of social use of language.

  • Lack of understanding that language is a tool for communication.

  • Lack of reciprocity in conversational interchange: for example the inability to initiate or maintain a conversation with others. May be able to ask for their own needs but have great difficulty in talking about / understanding emotions, feelings, thoughts and beliefs of their own and other people.

  • Idiosyncratic language (echolalia, literal use of language etc).

  • Lack of use and understanding of gesture, miming, facial expression, vocal intonation, etc. as tools of conveying information impairment in make believe or social imitative play.

  • Inadequate emotional reaction to verbal and non verbal approaches by others.

Research has shown however that it is often not the lack of communicative intent (the desire to communicate) but rather a limited ability to use verbal or non verbal communication for a range of different purposes, and often the use of unconventional means of communication (their own means of communication and language we do not share) that is different for people with Autism and Aspergers Syndrome.