Section 1: Understand speech, language and communication in individuals with autism
Q1: Outline the processes required to communicate using: (1.1)
Communication can be difficult for those with autism, and this could mean that an individual may communicate and perceive communication in different ways. There are three different ways in which communication can be achieved: the person’s behaviour and demeanour, the person’s speech, and the person’s language. A person’s behaviour and demeanour can cover a variety of different things, due to it being such a broad category. It may include an individual’s facial expression and the emotions defined by it, e.g. someone who is smiling can communicate that they are feeling happy. A person’s body language can also communicate their overall feeling e.g. crossed arms can indicate the person is feeling defensive about something. If someone chooses to move quite fast, this can indicate a person is feeling anxious about something e.g. jerky movements, or a shaking leg. There are also the usual actions and gestures that have their own meanings, such as shrugging the shoulders means ‘I don’t know’ or shaking head means ‘no’. When a person can make a vocal sound, usually turning into words, this is the individual using ‘speech’ to communicate. Speech can give many tones and volumes which can be incredibly confusing for someone with autism. It can be seen to be helpful as different tones can show different moods e.g. a harsh tone can indicate anger and a soft tone can indicate calmness.
Volume can also indicate a similar type of mood, with the more louder meaning more agitated and the quieter meaning calmer. Often the choice of words can also determine a person’s mood which can affect communication e.g. using requests or commands can cause different emotions to be felt by the other person. In some cases, a person with autism will use vocal sounds to help communicate and this can sometimes replace words that they would normally say. This could include vocal sounds, such as grunts, groans or sighs.
Language can be an effective communication method. Some may use written words to speak to someone else, however, in some cases this can become misinterpreted which could affect the person on the other end in a way that was not meant. Someone with autism may use cards with written words on them to help convey what they are trying to communicate, and this can really help the other person trying to understand. There is also an electronic version. Some people with autism may find it
easier to use symbols and pictures, such as picture cards, to communicate; used in PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System). British Sign Language is used as a method of communication by those with hearing impairments. Those with autism are likely to use Makaton, rather than BSL, and this is a method of creating sentences using a string of word signs. There are also handheld and desktop electronic communication devices that can make it easier for individuals to communicate. It creates
an electronic voice to reproduce what the user has inputted into the device. This can also be effective on an electronic tablet, which improves the portability.
Q2: Describe how speech and language development may be delayed or affected for individuals with autism. (1.2)
The triad of improvements, that consist of communication, social interaction, and repetitiveness, can significantly impact an individual with autism’s ability to communicate functionally. Some individuals may be able to use words and sentences, but not be able to understand the meanings behind them, whilst others may not be aware of the different communication types and styles are relevant to a particular conversation. The delay could result in individuals with autism using electronic devices or using signs and symbols to communicate. Theorists have started referring to the triad as the ‘dyad’ due to the similarities between social interaction and communication. Repetitive behaviour also plays a part in undeveloped communication skills due to it being found that people with autism can repeat
sentences and words without understanding the meaning. It is common for those with autism to lack transferable skills which can contribute to the misunderstanding of styles of communications. Individuals can also take part in repetitive or obsessive interests, such as hand flapping or using the same object over and over again. This can cause issues with development as the individual can become reliant and dependable on the object, movement or interest making it difficult to adopt an independent lifestyle. Trying to forcibly control this can cause anxiety and stress for the individual with autism which can lead to behaviour that challenges.
Q3: Describe different forms of communication used by individuals with autism. (1.3)
As autism can limit an individual’s communication, there needs to be quite a few ways in which they are able to communicate with those around them. Despite being highly adaptive to speech and understanding information from situations, they may only be able to communicate with others using one form of communication. A form of communication that can be used by someone with autism is speech referring to spoken words that are used to communicate meaning. Those with high-functioning autism and Asperger’s syndrome can use speech in the same way as neurotypicals. They can use conventional sentences but usually compiled of stock words they have heard before to which they
may not understand the full meaning of. Those with ‘milder’ or high functioning types of autism may struggle understanding conversations and then may interrupt while others are speaking or abruptly change the conversation. Another form is vocalisation where a person with autism may communicate using individual vocal sounds or strings of sounds. They can be a replacement for words or be used in an attempt to say a particular word. Sometimes the pitch and tone of vocalisation can indicate meaning and urgency which is why it is important for family, friends and professionals to understand the different vocalisation a person with autism can make. Someone with autism may communicate with symbols and pictures as they may not be able to use spoken words or vocalisation to express their needs. This can include photographs, or even drawn pictures of objects or people whilst symbols can represent words, objects or themes.Theorists argue that symbols and images are easier to understand for people with autism than spoken word, as the visual representation stay longer in a person with autism’s mind than spoken word.
Q4: Describe the difficulties an individual with autism may have in communicating verbally when: (1.4)
a) Processing verbal information
Educational theorists suggest that types of learning can be split into three main topics: kinesthetic, auditory and visual. As their names suggest, auditory learners learn best using sound, visual learners learn best with images or drawings and kinaesthetic learners learn best from being able to touch and manipulate what is in front of them to learn it. Whilst this works best for neurotypical individuals, it is important that there are still the variety of communication methods available for those with autism. Those with autism can usually encounter problems such as having difficulty processing and interpreting verbal information which can be difficult to support due to medical knowledge of the human brain is limited. Individuals with autism can have difficulty processing speech simply by the different types of noises, tones and volumes. They can also have difficulty with separating noises that are environmental and noises that are made by surrounding people. It can also lead to epileptic seizures which is a medical condition that affects the brain, which also has no cure due to limited medical knowledge. Difficulty with processing can lead to those with autism to hear spoken word as a different language, making it harder to understand, hear and respond to.
b) Interpreting verbal information
Difficulties processing can also cause an effect on the individual’s ability to interpret verbal information. This can affect their ability to create a representation or image of the spoken word in their heads which makes it harder for them to respond to. ‘Concrete’ nouns that describe objects that can be seen or touched give a better understanding to those with autism than emotions and other more ‘abstract’ words that aren’t necessarily represented with symbols; symbols are something that those
with autism can rely on to help them understand and give an appropriate response.