Communication Issues for Kids with High-Functioning Autism: Tips for Teachers

“I have an autistic student (level 1, high functioning) in my 5th grade class this year and was needing to know if there are any communication impairments associated with the condition that I should be aware of. Thanks in advance.”

Although significant problems with speech are not typical of High-Functioning Autism (HFA), there are at least 4 features of these students’ communication skills that should be understood.

1. Though inflection and intonation are not be as rigid and monotonic as in classic autism, speech is often marked by poor prosody (i.e., patterns of stress and intonation). Young people with HFA often have an odd manner of speaking (e.g., words enunciated precisely and formally; the speed, volume and rhythm may be strange).

Problem areas to look out for include talking loudly, odd rhythms of speech, stilted or formal speech, monotonous sound, little or no inflection, and difficulties in coordinating speaking and breathing.

2.  Speech is often vague and circumstantial, conveying a sense of looseness of associations and disjointedness. The lack of coherence and reciprocity in speech is a result of (a) the one-sided, egocentric conversational style (e.g., endless monologues about the names, codes, names of dinosaurs, etc.), and (b) failure to provide the background for comments and to clearly establish changes in topic.

3. Another aspect typifying the communication patterns of children with HFA concerns the significant verbosity observed (which some researchers see as one of the most prominent traits of HFA). The youngster may talk incessantly (usually about his or her favorite topic) with complete disregard to whether the listener is interested, engaged, 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 peers to elaborate on issues of content or to shift the conversation to related topics are usually unsuccessful.

==> Teaching Students with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

4. The possibility exists that all of these traits may be accounted for in terms of significant deficits in pragmatics skills and/or lack of awareness of other people's expectations. Pragmatics refers to language usage and the way that context relates to meaning. Kids on the autism spectrum often have difficulty in holding a normal conversation where there is “give and take” in the social interaction.

Problems with pragmatics manifest in a number of ways, including when the child is oblivious to emotional reactions in others, is oblivious to boredom in others, does not greet others and instead jumps right into a monologue, lacks facial expression and eye contact, interrupts others, gives too much detailed information, focuses exclusively on topics that interest him or her, does not use people’s names, and does not allow the other person to talk.

More resources for parents of children and teens with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's:

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Guide for Parents Who Want to Promote Self-Reliance

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Comprehensive Handbook

==> Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Audio Book

==> Parenting System that Reduces Problematic Behavior in Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

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