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Communication Issues in Children with Asperger's and HFA

Do kids with high functioning autism have communication problems, and are they similar to those with autistic disorder?

In contrast to Autism, there are no symptoms in this area of functioning in the definition of High Functioning Autism (HFA) or Asperger’s (AS). Although significant abnormalities of speech are not typical of HFA and AS children, there are at least three aspects of communication skills which are of clinical interest:

1. One aspect typifying the communication patterns of AS and HFA children concerns the marked verbosity observed, which some researchers see as a prominent differential feature. The youngster may talk incessantly, usually about his favorite subject, often in complete disregard to whether the listener is interested, engaged, or attempting to interject a comment, or change the subject of conversation. Despite such long-winded monologues, the child may never come to a point or conclusion. Attempts by the listener to elaborate on issues of content or logic, or to shift the interchange to related topics, are often unsuccessful.

2. In AS and HFA children, speech may often be tangential and circumstantial, conveying a sense of looseness of associations and incoherence. The lack of coherence and reciprocity in speech is a result of failure to provide the background for comments, failure to clearly demarcate changes in topic, failure to suppress the vocal output accompanying internal thoughts, and the one-sided conversational style (e.g., unrelenting monologues about the names and classifications of dinosaurs).

3. Though inflection and intonation may not be as rigid and monotonic as in the speech of Autistic children, the speech of AS and HFA children may be marked by poor prosody (e.g., there may a constricted range of intonation patterns that is used with little regard to the communicative functioning of the speech).

Despite the possibility that these symptoms may be accounted for in terms of significant deficits in pragmatics skills, lack of insight, and lack of awareness of other's expectations, the challenge remains to understand this phenomenon developmentally as techniques for social adaptation.

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