Inappropriate/unconventional use of language
The child may develop ‘codes’ for indicating desires, sometimes the parent works out a logical association between the word and its meaning to the child (e.g. ‘boots’ indicates a wish to go to the park), whilst other codes may never be cracked by parents/carers which leads to confusion and frustration.
Problems with nonverbal communication
Speech accounts for only a small part of a communication, most of us pick up signals from body language, facial expressions, voice tone and emphasis. A child with Autism doesn’t recognise the value of these cues and clues, this can lead to reliance on the literal meaning of words, without considering the delivery, intonation or social context.
As well as not being able to process these in others, the child will often display fewer of these (e.g. facial expression appears blank or unusually serious, speech is delivered in monotone).
Missing the implicit instructions within speech
Speech may be regarded simply as an exchange of facts, therefore if a child is asked ‘do you know what the capital of France is?’ he/she might reply ‘yes’ without elaborating to reveal the answer.
From early infancy some children with Autism do not recognise humans as distinctly important, as a result they do no engage in the same manner with caregivers.
Some children may appear ‘aloof’ or indifferent to others, they do not participate in social interaction, and are often referred to as being ‘in a world of their own’. These children seem happy to spend long periods alone, with communication, if present, being limited to obtaining basic needs. Being with others is not a motivating factor.
Children within the ‘passive’ group do not actively search for social interaction, however, when they are included in activities, they will accept this and even at times show pleasure. A passive child rarely makes demands on caregivers.
The third group is made up of children who make social approaches in a manner best described as ‘active but odd’. These children display a desire to be involved with peers, but lack the social skills to engage appropriately.
Impairment of imagination
Problems in this area can be shown in a variety of ways:
Rigidity of thinking
The child may try to see the world as black and white with no grey in between (e.g. people are either bad or good). Rules and regulations provide a comforting structure and are strictly followed, and the many exceptions to rules that crop up from time to time are confusing. Related to this rigidity is a difficulty in coping with change and a marked preference to sameness.