Socialization is one of the central factors needed for the successful development of any person. Individuals belong to various communities, and interaction with their members is one of the core components of everyday life and evolution. The importance of this process is evidenced by the fact that since his/her childhood, a person learns how to communicate and acquires specific language skills needed to engage in cooperation with surrounding people. In such a way, language becomes a leading tool that is used to learn, collaborate, and socialize at different levels. Unfortunately, some problems might introduce barriers to mastering needed communication skills and become a member of social discourse. One of the causes for the appearance of these issues is an inborn disability that might presuppose the need for specific methods to educate a child and guarantee a chance for integration with society. The paper is devoted to the description of autism spectrum disorder, its basic elements, language skills peculiar to children with this disease, and challenges they have to overcome to socialize.
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Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) belongs to complex and complicated neurodevelopment diseases that are characterized by the existence of specific behavioral patterns. These include repetitive models, difficulties with communication with peers, problematic interaction, and inability to make a compromise (Reed, p. 236). Usually, symptoms appear in early childhood and affect all spheres of a person’s life. Today, the term ASD also includes various conditions that were previously treated as separate ones, which include autism, childhood disintegrative disorder, Asperger’s syndrome (Adamson, Bakeman, Suma, & Robins, 2019). The form of the disease affects the ability to perform activities of daily living or introduces the need for substantial support (Urbano, Raffaele, Kreiser, Flaherty, & Hartmann, 2019). There are no critical differences in incidence rates among various ethnic groups or socioeconomic levels as representatives of multiple populations might acquire this disorder. However, statistics also show that boys belong to the risk group as they are more likely to develop ASD if compare with girls (Urbano et al., 2019).
Speaking about the etiology of the disease, there are unified perspectives on the primary causes of ASD. The complexity of the given state, differences in symptoms, and various behavioral patterns support the idea that there can be many causes for the evolution of the given illness. However, the modern perspective assumes that genetics plays a critical role as for some of the children, there are also corresponding genetic disorders and mutations increasing the risk of acquiring ASD (Reed, p. 239). Some of these might be inherited, while others appear spontaneously and cannot be predicted. Additionally, there are research projects aimed at the investigation of such factors as viral infections, medications, or complications during pregnancy and their impact on triggering ASD (Mody & Belliveau, 2013). In such a way, there is no clear understanding of why children might acquire the disease.
Diagnosing ASD can also be a complex process, as many conditions should be addressed. First of all, these patterns and signs that should be given attention:
- Repetitive movements, hand flapping, spinning.
- Self-harming activities
- Rituals for usual activities and their non-observation can disturb a child
- Problems with coordination
- Attention to little details of the object
- Sensitivity to light
- Specific food preferences (Mody & Belliveau, 2013)
These behavioral patterns should be taken by a specialist as features evidencing the existence of a certain problem with the development of a child. Moreover, parents should be aware of the possible appearance of the problem and devote attention to early symptoms that are visible at specific ages. For instance:
- No pointing by age 1
- The absence of words by the age of 16 month or two-word phrases by age 2
- The child does not respond to his/her name
- Loss of previously acquired communication, language, or social skills
- Avoidance of eye contact
- No smiling (Reed, p. 237)
The factors should be considered by a clinician as possible symptoms for ASD. In general, the signs might vary from person to person, depending on the severity, state, and personal characteristics of individuals. However, all these variations from the norm should serve as the basis for screening for developmental delays during special checkups for autism at 18 and 25 months (Reed, p. 236). The presence of some of these signs, along with the appearance of new, more complex ones, can help to diagnose ASD in a child. Later symptoms and indicators might include:
- The absence of friends
- Inability to sustain a conversation
- Absence of imaginative play
- Repetitive use of separate words
- Too narrow or focused interests
- Absence of flexibility and inability to adapt to new conditions (Reed, p. 237)
All these aspects should be addressed by pediatricians, who are the first stage in the diagnosing of ASD. Early checks help to determine the existence of a problem and introduce specific measures to help a child. The in-time detection and provision of appropriate measures can be taken as a vital component of treatment and improvement of children’s states and socialization patterns.
Speaking about ASD, one should also mind the fact that due to the existence of specific patterns in child development, the language skills of people with this disability differ from common ones. Fteiha (2017) emphasizes the fact that the way an individual pronounces words, builds sentences, or chooses language units can show the existence of a particular problem or unusual patterns that should be addressed. Usually, children with ASD have results different from the norm in such fields as phonology, syntax, and semantics (Fteiha, 2017). The ability to communicate depends on intellectual and social development as some of them cannot speak using language, while others show limited communicative skills, or, on the contrary, rich vocabulary with the attention to tiny details (Fteiha, 2017). There are also problems with vocal tones and inclinations that might be present in various messages (Cleland, Gibbon, Peppé, O’Hare, & Rutherford, 2010). For this reason, an in-depth investigation of this area is demanded a better understanding of patients with ASD and the satisfaction of their needs.
Thus, speaking about language peculiarities, Cleland et al. (2010) state that articulation and phonology skills are often taken as a strength in children with ASD as many studies admit appropriate or even superior speech if to compare with other abilities. Moreover, studies show that individuals with ASD have superior articulation if compare with peers (Cleland et al., 2010). Unfortunately, a significant percentage of children with this disability still have some impaired speech patterns that can be associated with their social and intellectual development (Cleland et al., 2010). Recent findings outline that patients can produce atypical, non-developmental errors, such as deviant patterns of phoneme-specific nasal emission, with air emitting from the nose instead of the mouth during pronunciation (Cleland et al., 2010). Along with lateralization, this problem can precondition problems with the social acceptability of speech and cooperation with peers (Burnside, Wright, & Poulin, 2017). These aspects might serve as barriers to integration with society and should be considered by parents and specialists.
Additionally, there are both phonological and phonetic errors, such as velar fronting and lateral sibilants (Cleland et al., 2010). However, investigators assume that the existence of these problems does not indicate cognitive impairment as there is no correlation between language skills and several errors (Cleland et al., 2010). The outlined issues with speech and articulation might come from delays in language learning, specific environment, and unusual behavioral patterns (Cleland et al., 2010). Other common problems peculiar to this category of children include fluctuation in loudness, excessive sound prolongation, tonal contrasts, and limited pitch range (Reed, p. 244). In such a way, non-developmental errors might occur among children with ASD and serve as an additional barrier to successful socialization and communication with peers.
Analyzing the given disability, various researchers admit the existence of specific problems in the semantic field. As it has been stated previously, children with ASD can be focused on details of the object instead of considering its whole image. This pattern impacts their use of vocabulary and understanding of meanings. For instance, patients with this disability might have a problematic understanding of some things and do not have an appropriate world for their nominalization (Gladfelter & Goffman, 2018). That is why they try to describe various parts to create the picture and represent a particular item. Another semantic problem can be found with pronouns as children with ASD often confuse or substitute pronominal forms such as she/he, her/his (Reed, p. 245). There are also diagnosed problems with the understanding of deictic forms with contextual meaning mainly because of the focus on some small details (Reed, p. 245). Furthermore, the possible deficit of attention impacts their ability to observe pronoun forms in the speech and corrupts patients’ ability to participate in it. The existence of these issues is one of this cohort’s common peculiarities that are considered by specialists.
Syntax and Morphology
Another sign of ASD is the extensive use of repetitive patterns in speech, which can evidence the existence of some problems with syntax. Investigations show that vocabulary or even sentence repetition becomes a severe barrier to communication with peers and socialization (Gonzalez-Barrero & Nadig, 2019). It can be found in the bigger part of children with ASD regardless of the stage of language delay or development of phonological skills (Gonzalez-Barrero & Nadig, 2019). There is also a tendency towards the repetition of utterances addressed to people with this sort of disorder (Reed, p. 247). Today, there is an idea that the use of this mechanism has some pragmatic purposes as children acquire an opportunity to think about the message, analyze it, and engage in specific self-regulating activities needed to correctly understand the sentence and respond to it appropriately (Mody & Belliveau, 2013). In general, syntax and morphology peculiar to patients with ASD remain complicated by the impaired behavioral patterns and developmental problems that affect speech and deprive children of a chance for successful communication in the severest forms of the disease.
The existence of the problems mentioned above also impacts pragmatic language skills peculiar to children with ASD. It can be determined as the ability to use various speech patterns in different social contexts and successfully communicate. Impaired pragmatic skills are one of the critical determinants of autism as children with this disability have a set of issues in this domain, which prevents them from integrating with society and interacting with peers (Klusek, Maring, & Losh, 2015). During a conversation with other people, patients with ASD struggle with turn-taking, articulation, and choosing appropriate diction, maintaining topics, and concentration (Klusek, Maring, & Losh, 2015). Because of the complexity of these tasks for children with autism, there can be such undesired patterns as irrelevant details, preservation, unclear sounds, or strange references (Klusek et al., 2015). The existence of these aspects contributes to the increased complexity of communicating with children who have this very disability. For this reason, it becomes critical to consider these features when providing assistance to this group or trying to socialize them.
Finally, there can also be some problems with comprehension or understanding of the information provided to individuals. Children with ASD can be learned and educated to provide them with the skills needed to survive and live in a specific community (Mody & Belliveau, 2013). However, some factors should be taken into account. First, the degree of independence and comprehension depends on the severity of the disease (Mody & Belliveau, 2013). Many people with ASD can understand information that is offered to them, even if it is presented in specific ways. At the same time, there can be some barriers to comprehension, such as the inability to engage in communication, repetitive patterns, or impaired speech. Under these conditions, poor understanding might precondition delays in the development and occurrence of problematic speech patterns. For specialists working with this category of children and for their parents, it is vital to remember that poor comprehension is one of the problems typical for autism and should be given special attention with the primary goal to educate a child and make him/her prepared for the future life.
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The existence of all problems mentioned about preconditions the occurrence of specific language challenges faced by children with ASD. First, some patients with autism may be unable to speak because of problems with intellectual and social development; others might have rich vocabularies and clear articulation and pronunciation (Müller, Cannon, Kornblum, Clark, & Powers, 2016). However, statistics show that the majority of children with ASD have difficulties with the use of language when talking to other people (Müller et al., 2016). The challenges include the correct understanding of meaning, appropriate choice of words, avoidance of repetitions, and preservation of the theme of the conversation or its flow (Wittke, Mastergeorge, Ozonoff, Rogers, & Naigles, 2017). The main sources of these barriers are the impaired socialization and problematic acquisition of language skills combined with low comprehension levels (Müller et al., 2016). That is why representatives of this group can feel isolated or experience a lack of understanding.
Because of the existence of multiple problems with language and communication, children with the given disability often use gestures and specific communicative tools to show their intentions. Research works show that giving, showing, and pointing gestures are widely employed by the majority of patients with ASD regardless of the development of their language skills (Ellawadi & Weismer, 2014). These movements become natural tools that are used to avoid long explanations and prevent communicative failures. During the conversation, children can perform some actions to concentrate or to process information that is provided to them as they help to focus and self-regulate (Ellawadi & Weismer, 2014). For instance, prosodic peculiarities, such as repetitions and variations in tone, show various moods of a child and help to process new information better, by repeating and analyzing it (Reed, p. 248). Additionally, the use of gestures can be associated with some personal characteristics of a child, preferences, and behavioral patterns peculiar to him/her. That is why the employment of communicative tools may vary from one individual to another and should be investigated as a specific factor that is needed for improved cooperation with this group.
However, in some cases, the existence of these tools and their use can constitute a problem for a child. The fact is that communication with peers is built on the idea of similarity, which means that individuals should possess similar language skills and patterns to understand each other (Charman, 2004). That is why, for patients with ASD and their unique speech models, socialization might become a challenging issue. The employment of unusual tones, specific pronunciations, use of gestures, and repetitions can complicate the understanding of the messages’ main idea and introduce new barriers for socialization. For this reason, the degree to which these tools are used by a child should also be controlled to avoid the occurrence of new problematic issues.
Altogether, ASD is a complex disorder that might affect children regardless of their nationality or social status. It is characterized by problems with intellectual and social development. Moreover, there are some issues associated with their speech and language skills. Numerous representatives of this cohort have impairments in semantic, morphological, phonemic, and phonetical fields. The precondition complicated cooperation with peers and caregivers. Because of the complexity of this disorder, there is a critical need for the in-depth investigation of ASD to be ready to assist children with it and improve their states by providing appropriate interventions.
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