The word "autism" is derived from the Greek word "autos," which means "self" as people with this behavioural developmental disorder are often self-absorbed, appear to live in a private world. Autism affects social interaction, communication (verbal and non-verbal) and behaviour which makes it difficult for them to communicate well and interact with others. Many people with autism have difficulty with non-verbal communication such as through hand gestures, eye contact, and facial expressions.
Autism affects communication but everyone with autism spectrum disorder (autism, Asperger syndrome etc.) does not face language problem. The ability to communicate depends on the intellectual and social development of the child. Some children with autism may not speak whereas some may have rich vocabularies and can talk about some specific subjects in great detail (but as monologue and not a debate or in interaction with others).
Autism causes little or no problem in pronouncing words and most children can pronounce words clearly. However, autism affects language and most children have difficulty in effective usage of language especially while communicating/talking with other people. They may fail to understand the meaning and rhythm of words and sentences. Besides this they may not comprehend body language and the nuances of vocal tones.
Some patterns of language use and behaviours noted in children with autism include the following.
Repetitive or rigid language: Children with autism may often say sentences or words with no meaning or that are out of context in conversations with others. Like he may count from one to ten repeatedly, or repeat the sentence or word he has heard (such as do you want pizza)----this condition is called echolalia. Some children with autism may speak in a monotonous tone devoid of any expression, or high-pitched or singsong voice.
Narrow interests and exceptional abilities: According to research approximately 10 percent of children with autism have exceptional talent in specific areas, such as music, art and drawing, calendar calculation, or math calculations. Some children with autism may have rich vocabularies and can talk about some specific subject that holds their interest in great detail.
Uneven language development: Some children with autism may not speak but many children with autism do develop some speech and language skills. However their language development may not be normal or age appropriate and the progress may be usually uneven such as their vocabulary may be strong in a particular area of interest but they may fail to understand many simple words, or respond to their own names; they may read words many before 5 years of age, but may not understand the meaning of what they have read. So many children with autism are often mistakenly thought to have a hearing problem.
Poor nonverbal conversation skills: Besides problems with language children with autism may have difficulty with non-verbal communication as well such as through hand gestures, eye contact, and facial expressions. Such as, these children may not be able to point at an object to give meaning to their speech; or may avoid eye contact while talking which can make them seem rude, offensive, indifferent, or careless.
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