The Impact of Autism on Language Development

Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) affect children in different ways and to varying degrees of severity. This is why autism specialists develop personalized therapy plans based on the individual child’s deficits and goals. An autism therapy plan may help a child develop his or her expressive, receptive, or pragmatic language skills, among other areas of development.

Expressive Language

Every time a person converts thoughts into words, he or she is using expressive language skills. Many children with autism have expressive language impairments. In some cases, the child may be entirely nonverbal. Other children with autism do speak, but not to the extent that a typically developing child would. ABA therapy is to encourage the child’s ability to interact with others through expressive language skills.

Receptive Language

As the term implies, receptive language skills are the ability of a person to understand another person’s spoken words. A child may have receptive language deficits if he or she has trouble answering questions or following directions. These children also commonly have trouble taking turns in conversation, understanding gestures, and identifying objects.

Pragmatic Language

Pragmatic language deficits are common among children with autism. Pragmatic language refers to the social context of language. For a typically developed individual, the ability to interpret another person’s facial expressions or body language seems to be intuitive and automatic. But for a child with autism, these social cues of language can be enigmatic and confusing. Pragmatic language skills include the ability to alter language depending on the situation or the listener, such as speaking differently in a library versus the playground. They also include the ability to use language for varying purposes, such as greeting a person, requesting something, or providing information. A third major component of pragmatic language is the ability to follow the conventional rules of conversation, such as taking turns speaking.

Here at The Behavior Exchange, we’ve made it our life’s work to help children with autism reach their full potential. Our ABA therapists in the DFW area provide one-on-one sessions to help children develop their language skills , social abilities, and self-help skills, among other abilities. If your child has speech and language differences, you can contact us at (888) 716-8084.

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