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Communication Difficulties in Children with ASD Level 1

“What are some of the common communication difficulties that children on the high functioning end of autism have?”

The youngster with ASD level 1, or High-Functioning Autism, usually begins to speak at the age expected in “typical” kids (however, walking may be delayed). A full command of grammar is sooner or later acquired, but there may be difficulty in using pronouns correctly (with the substitution of the second or third for the first person forms).

The content of speech is often abnormal (tending to be pedantic and often consisting of lengthy discussions on favorite subjects). Sometimes a word or phrase is repeated over and over again in a stereotyped fashion. The youngster may invent some words. Also, subtle verbal jokes are not understood, though simple verbal humor may be appreciated.

Non-verbal aspects of communication are also affected. There may be little facial expression except with strong emotions (e.g., anger, irritation). Vocal intonation tends to be monotonous and droning, or exaggerated. Gestures are limited, or else large and clumsy and inappropriate for the accompanying speech.

Comprehension of other people's expressions and gestures is poor, and the youngster may misinterpret or ignore such non-verbal signs. At times he or she may earnestly gaze into another person's face, searching for the meaning that eludes him or her.

The most obvious trait in children with ASD is impairment of two-way social communication. This is NOT due to a desire to withdraw from social contact, rather the problem arises from a lack of ability to understand and use the rules governing social behavior.

These rules are unwritten and unstated, complex, and constantly changing. These hidden rules affect speech, movement, eye contact, choice of clothing, gesture, posture, proximity to others, and many other aspects of behavior.

The degree of skill in the area of communication varies among “typical” children, but those with autism are outside the normal range. For example:
  • A small minority have a history of rather bizarre antisocial acts, possibly due to their lack of empathy
  • Some are overly-sensitive to criticism and suspicious of others
  • Their social behavior is often naive and peculiar
  • They do not have the intuitive knowledge of how to adapt their approaches and responses to fit-in with the needs and personalities of peers
  • They may be aware of their difficulties and even strive to overcome them, but in inappropriate ways

Relations with the opposite sex provide a good example of the more general social ineptitude. One of my Asperger’s clients (male, age 25) observed that many of his peers had girlfriends – and some eventually married and had kids. He wanted to be “normal” in this respect, but had no idea how to indicate his interest and attract a female in a socially acceptable way.

He often asked others for a “list of rules for talking to girls,” or tried to find “the secret” in books. If he had a strong sex drive, he would approach and touch or kiss a stranger, or someone much older or younger than himself. As a consequence, he found himself in trouble with the police on a few occasions, or he tried to solve the problem by becoming solitary and withdrawn.

Resources for parents of children and teens on the autism spectrum:

==> Videos for Parents of Children and Teens with ASD

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