Social communication and interaction in Autism Spectrum Disorder-A A +A
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
IN THE DSM-5 or the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, social communication and interaction is one of the two characteristics assessed in a person with autism. (The other category is the person's restricted and repetitive behavior.) One may observe that individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have different levels of communication deficits.
Some children with ASD are perceived as persons who are loners and introverts. They are misunderstood as snobbish or aloof since they seem uninterested to talk. Inversely, others are quite talkative to the point of being annoying.
The level of social communication and interaction varies from person to person and falls on a continuum, which means that some individuals show mild deficits while others have much more severe symptoms.
There are several manifestations of communication deficits in individuals with ASD. For example, in young children, speech delay is very prominent as compared to a normal child's vocabulary that gradually increases from one year onwards. Some are non-verbal and cannot express words. Some are able to talk but respond inappropriately in conversations.
For example, a child might be heard just repeating the words that you say. This is called echolalia or when a child "echoes" what he hears. A common example is when you ask "What is your name?” and the child replies "What is your name?" instead of telling his name.
Some children have difficulty processing simple questions such as "How old are you?" and might even reply "I am fine, thank you" because the question is very close to "How are you?"
Some individuals with ASD also fall into misreading nonverbal interactions. If spoken words are already hard to understand, it is much more difficult for them to interpret body language. Some teen-agers with ASD sometimes get into trouble when their attempts to talk with peers are not reciprocated in the manner they expect.
Some individuals may also be good at starting conversations but are not flexible in moving from one topic to another and cannot sustain conversations. Other individuals are obsessed with talking for many hours about a single topic, for example, a particular sports activity and not get tired about it. Again, some simply cannot utter words.
Parents are always advised that developing the child's ability to communicate is always better than just being able to talk. Some parents get frustrated when their children cannot talk or are not verbal. This is quite understandable especially when the child has not been taught how to communicate their needs and emotions. It will be difficult for a parent to tell if the child is not feeling well or to pinpoint a body part that is painful if the child cannot communicate.
It is a bonus if the child can express words, but if he is not verbal, there are other ways to teach him how to communicate. There are a variety of communication tools to aid him in communicating, from practical visual aids (objects and pictures) to devices that use advance technology (digital talking books).
More importantly, a child may benefit from the services of a speech pathologist and special education teachers.
At home, the child needs to be exposed to communication and interaction at all times. The parents are still the best therapists for a child with ASD. No attempt is ever futile in developing your child achieve a level of interaction and communication with the members of the family.
(Jane Ann S. Gonzales is a mother of a youth with autism. She is an advocate/core member of the Autism Society Philippines and Directress of the Independent Living Learning Centre (ILLC) Davao, a centre for teenagers and adults with special needs. For comments or questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org)
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on September 04, 2013.