What’s Idiosyncratic Speech? – Autism Parenting Journal
People with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have a wide range of speaking and language skills. Highly functional people can speak perfectly fluently, others have difficulty, and some remain non-verbal and communicate using different methods.
For many children with ASD, a delay in language development is one of the first signs of a developmental disorder. Verbal communication problems can result from language problems (difficulty pronouncing or forming words correctly), language problems (difficulty using words in connected sentences), or both.
Often times, the challenges of social communication go beyond mere verbal ones – a child may not be able to understand the meaning of body language and physical gestures, such as pointing at an object.
Typically developing children seek social interactions with parents and other people that allow them to naturally improve their language skills. However, autistic children tend not to engage with others as quickly from a young age, which leads to deficits in their social communication skills.
When speaking, autistic children may confuse pronouns, have flat tones, discuss repetitive topics, misunderstand slang and sarcasm, use pedantic language (a language too formal for context), use echolalia (repeating things they have heard about) another or in a movie) and more.
Another common language characteristic for people with ASD is idiosyncratic language. Some criteria for a diagnosis of autism, such as: B. The Autism Diagnosis Observation Plan, include it as a symptom of the disorder. The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) also lists “idiosyncratic phrases” under “repetitive behavior patterns” that may indicate autism spectrum disorders.
What is idiosyncratic language?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a peculiarity as an “individualizing property or quality”. From this definition, it is easy to see how “idiosyncratic language” got its name, since a child’s use of this language typically comes from their individual experiences.
When we talk about spoken language, peculiarities are when someone uses normal words or phrases in unusual ways – the word will be a real word in the speaker’s native language, but it will not really be associated with what he / she is in relation to on. The real meaning will only make sense to the speaker and possibly those close to him.
For example, suppose an autistic child’s Aunt Mary always takes them to a particular park. In his brain he connects Aunt Mary with this park so that he can say: “Aunt Mary” instead of “I want to go to the park”. Most of the others would not understand the context, but it is the child’s attempt to communicate.
Children who use quirks may also be prone to using neologisms or made up words that are not part of their mother tongue.
A study by Joanne Volden and Catherine Lord (1991) found that children with autism spectrum disorder are more likely to use neologisms and idiosyncrasies than neurotypical or mentally disabled children. They “were more likely to use inappropriately words that had no phonological or semantic similarity to the intended English word”.
Nobody knows the exact reason for these differences, or even for the autism itself. However, researcher Avital Haramy, who co-authored a study on autism in 2015, suggested, “From a young age, the brain networks of an average, typical person become through intense interaction formed with humans and the mutual environmental factors … It is possible that in ASD, since the interactions with the environment are disturbed, everyone [person with ASD] develops a more unique individualistic organizational pattern of the brain. “
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Language and communication skills affected by idiosyncrasy
Idiosyncrasy and other language deficits that are common in people with autism affect pragmatic language. This is the ability to use language to communicate appropriately with others. There are three main skills associated with pragmatic language:
Use language for different contexts
- Adjust vocabulary and tone of voice based on the audience – speaking to a friend or new acquaintance, speaking to a toddler or high school student, etc.
- Adjusting vocabulary and tone of voice to the situation – giving a presentation at school or having a conversation at a birthday party, discussing something private at home or in public, etc.
Use language for different purposes
- Knowledge of the usual, polite way of greeting others, saying goodbye, asking for something, etc.
Follow the rules of social communication
- Let the other participants speak
- Reading non-verbal cues, body language and gestures
- Stay with the topic and introduce relevant new ones
- Don’t spend too much time on your own interests
All of these skills are key to pleasant social interaction, but they are not a given for children with autism.
Idiosyncrasy affects each of these categories. A child who shows this behavior will not understand that not everyone has the same knowledge as in the previous example, it does not understand that not everyone knows that Aunt Mary always takes him to the park. Or maybe he just didn’t understand the correct sentence structure to explain what he meant. This limits his ability to have a conversation and get his point across.
Can Idiosyncrasy Be Treated?
It is common for children with ASD to receive speech therapy to help manage idiosyncrasy and other challenges. Speech pathologists can help identify which skills a child needs to work on and develop a strategy to improve their verbal communication.
The treatment measures for your child depend on how far their development has progressed and what is hidden behind their linguistic peculiarities. Therapists often use games, role play, and one-on-one conversations to work on various skills.
Ideally, speech therapy should be used early in the language development phase in order to improve the chances of good results later. Keep track of your child’s progress and inform their doctor of any delays or inconvenience so they can decide whether interventions are needed. Even if your child is older and outside of the typical language development stage, it is of course not too late for treatment.
Speech therapy can also be beneficial for children with highly functional autism, who usually speak well, as the treatment usually also addresses the non-verbal parts of communication.
What to look for in a speech therapist
In your search for a speech pathologist, the qualities you are looking for will of course depend on your child’s needs. But in general, some of the most important criteria are:
- The therapist should be experienced with autistic patients, especially autistic children
- The therapist should be able to develop a good relationship with your child and involve them in the learning process
- The therapist should involve and educate you, the parent, so that you know how to help your child at home
When the treatment doesn’t work
Some autistic people never get fully functional language, and that’s fine. There are other ways of communication such as:
- Sign language
- Image exchange communication systems
- Screen readers that play prerecorded words
As a parent, it’s natural to grieve if your child never reaches the language milestones you expected. But all forms of communication are valid and none is less than verbal interaction, just different.
Social interaction is an important part of life. Most of us can’t get through the day without having a conversation, be it with friends, family, or colleagues. Whenever possible, it is important for children with autism to work on their language skills so that they can reach their potential and build stronger relationships with others.
Idiosyncrasy is a challenging problem that can be frustrating for both the child who wants to be understood and those who want to understand. Fortunately, progress is possible in this area.
Regardless of the outcome of your child’s language study trip, they will be a unique individual with their own skills, strengths and a special connection to their greatest advocate – you.
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