Severe deficits in language and communication is another core feature of autism. These deficits can range from mild to severe. Some children with ASD may not be able to communicate using speech or language, and some may have very limited speaking skills. Some have difficulties understanding what others say to them. They may also often have difficulties communicating nonverbally, such as through hand gestures, eye contact, and facial expressions. Others with autism may have rich vocabularies and be able to talk about specific subjects in great detail. Many have problems with the meaning and rhythm of words and sentences. They also may be unable to understand body language and the meanings of different vocal tones. These difficulties affect the ability of children with ASD to interact with others, especially people their own age.
If a doctor suspects a child has autism or another developmental disability, they will refer the patient to a speech-language pathologist. This is a health professional trained to treat individuals with voice, speech, and language disorders. The speech-language pathologist will perform a comprehensive evaluation of the child’s ability to communicate and will design an appropriate treatment program. In addition, the speech-language pathologist might make a referral for a hearing test to make sure the child’s hearing is normal. A behaviorist can also work on improving language and social skills.
Teaching children with autism to improve their communication skills is essential for helping them reach their full potential. There are many different approaches, but the best treatment program begins early. Most children with autism respond well to highly structured, specialized programs. Parents or primary caregivers, as well as other family members, should be involved in the treatment program so that it becomes part of the child’s daily life.