Chapter 5 –
Autism affects the speech and communication to some degree of all autistic people. You may wonder, “Is my child autistic?” The communication varies and is usually contributed to the actual mental part of the brain to translate the communication and what social development the child has had. If parents of an autistic child learn and practice methods that encourage the full use of the communication skills that the child has, then the child will develop faster to meet their mental ability. Some autistic children will never gain a voice. Some are silent and rarely utter a sound, while others know a few words or use grunts and noises in their effort to communicate.
On the opposite end of the autistic spectrum, an autistic child may have a very rich vocabulary and are able to discuss some subjects in depth and with a great deal of intellectual insight. Others will be able to only discuss specialized subjects that either they have a great interest in, or they have mastered the ability to communicate about that subject. No matter what the severity of autism is, it is not the words that they have trouble with. Most autistic children can pronounce words correctly but it’s how the language is used to make a coherent thought.
The language that you hear coming out of an autistic child’s mouth may be incoherent to you. The rhythm of the words or the order of the words might be totally mixed up. As the listener, you would assume that the child didn’t know what they were saying, but in the child’s mind the message is clear; there is just a short between the brain and how the words come out of the mouth. If a child asks for a glass of water, he or she may have the sentence formed in their head, but a grunt or dislocated words will come out of their mouth.
The autistic child may repeat a phrase that they have learned to associate with a physical action. The child may have heard, “Do you want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich,” from his mother and will then associate that phrase every time they are hungry. Instead of saying ‘I am hungry’ the child will used the same associated phrase, ‘Do you want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?’ They may even use this phrase for multiple purposes. It may be used when they have to use the bathroom, or they are thirsty. The language can be learned by a caring parent, but all to often the child becomes frustrated when adults or peers do not understand them.
Another trait of language in the autistic child is the use of key phrases or key sounds. For example an autistic child was witnessed starting every sentence with the words, ‘I like fruitcake.’ No matter what he wanted or what he was trying to say, he would start the conversation with ‘I like fruitcake, what is your name. I like fruitcake, where do you live?’ This seems humorous at first , but the child needed the phrase that he knew to facilitate the other message he was adding to it. Other autistic children will spell out a word they know like their name. For example they will say, ‘M-I-K-E, that spells Mike, what is your name? That one bit of ingrained information that seems disjointed is all they need to pull out the complete thought that follows. Remember when dealing or communicating with an autistic child, have an open mind to what they are communicating. Their words can or can not be taken literally, and their meaning may be the total opposite of what you are thinking.