Communication And Autism

Communication and Autism added by Caitlin Padick

As with many disorders the degree of severity autism can vary greatly. Many people with autism have full vocabularies and can carry on thorough intellectual conversations, and there are many who do not speak at all. On the whole people with autism do not usually exhibit normal speech patterns. The communication issues that arise in people with autism are never pronunciation based. Instead communication issues arise with the coherent formulation of sentences. Some people with autism speak yet do not speak in content specific ways. For example a person with autism may repetitively say the alphabet or count. Echolalia is another communication disorder often found in persons with autism. Echolalia manifests itself as the repetition of a phrase or question back to the speaker. "Would you like to go in the car?" "Would you like to go in the car." Some people with autism use common phrases consistently or as pattern to start conversations.

People with autism are also able to speak on a more coherent level. Depending on the severity of their condition, they may be able to speak about a favorite topic for an extended period of time but not be able to engage in a conversation about it. Further along the spectrum, some persons with autism will be able to appropriately respond to questions but do not have full mastery of pronouns and as a result misspeak their answers. The example is given by the NIDCD (National Institute on Deafness and Communication Disorders: To the question, "Are you wearing a red shirt today?" The person with autism would reply, "You are wearing a red shirt today".

Persons with autism also suffer from other types of communication disorders. Often they do not make eye contact and have a short attention span for conversation. Further many people with autism do not use hand gestures or body language to convey meaning and some lack the ability to use sign language to assist in their explanations or communications. Finally some auditory disorders are associated with autism. Some persons with autism do not respond to conversation or even their own name. This was often misdiagnosed as a hearing problem. Their hearing is not the problem rather they have trouble decoding what is being said or that the name or conversation is directed at them. Speech therapy and communication therapy are the recommended treatment and the younger the child when the therapy begins, in general, the more effective the treatment.


National Institute on Deafness and Communication Disorders. Autism and Communication. NIH Pub. No. 99-4315, October 1998, last updated May 2007.