Ben uses a voice output computer as his AAC system. While he uses the system to effectively communicate his wants and needs, he also uses the computer to repetitively touch his favorite phrase that is build into the system, "How are you today?" It seems he likes the sound of this phrase and listens to it (in a noncommunicative way) hundreds of times a day. So while a voice output system may or may not be the best choice of an AAC system for Ben, consideration needs to be given to his ritualized use of the system. His ritualized use of the AAC system interferes with his social acceptability. He also needs to be taught an alternative skill to replace this ritual in order to limit his noncommunicative use.
Select an AAC system that increases the child's communicative competence!
AAC Usage Examples
There are four examples of AAC usage on this page. The third clip shows a person with autism utilizing a letter board for spelling. The other clips are individuals with a variety of disabilities, but are used here to show an assortment of device usage.
Comparison to Typically Developing Individuals
Important language development milestones to consider:
Understands simple conversations in natural contexts
Uses simple sentences
Understands complex sentences in routine and natural contexts
Masters syntax/grammar and uses complex sentences
Understands abstract concepts and continues to build vocabulary
Continues to build vocabulary
When you remember these fundamental, yet critical language characteristics that are common in individuals with autism, it will enhance your ability to understand the person's perspective and become more successful in your efforts to interact and teach individuals with autism.
Important language features in autism to consider:
1. The individual with autism may understand you in routine contexts but not novel situations.
2. The individual with autism is more likely to understand concrete, not abstract information
3. The individual with autism often uses echolalia as a means to learn language and interact with others.
4. The individual with autism exhibits ritualistic language use for a variety of reasons, one of which is anxiety.
Do not assume language comprehension because an individual is verbal.
Remember the important distinction between expressive language and communication.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: What is language?
Answer: Language is a formal symbol system that has structural qualities, including morphology, semantics, and syntax.
Morphology - rules for how words are structured in a sentence (for example, word endings to mark plural (book/books)
Semantics - rules for how meaning is created by words and sentences (that is, word and sentence meaning)
Syntax - rules for the ordering of words in a sentence (that is, sentence grammar)
Language can be (a) oral/speech, (b) sign language, or (c) written language. An individual learns the rules of a particular language to understand the meaning of another person's needs, feelings, and ideas. The development of this knowledge is referred to as receptive language. An individual learns to use the rules of his or her particular language to express wants, needs, feelings, and ideas. The development of these skills is referred to as expressive language.
Question: What is speech?
Answer: Speech is one form of expressing language. It is the ability to use all the speech sounds in a particular language. The development of speech is an oral-motor skill that follows a particular motor sequence. Most children learn to use all the speech sounds of their particular language by age 5.
Question: What is communication?
Answer: Communication is an interactive exchange between two or more people to express needs, feelings, and ideas. It is a fundamental social skill. An effective communicator has an inherent motivation to interact with others, something to express, and a means of communication. An effective communicator is constantly thinking about the multiple contextual, language, social and emotional aspects of the situation and making ongoing adjustments in response to the behavior of others. Communication can be expressed verbally (by means of spoken, signed, or written language) or nonverbally (by using pictures, gestures, emotion, and other behaviors). The social conventions of communication are learned and refined throughout development.
Question: What are the unique communication characteristics of individuals with autism?
Difficulty understanding nonverbal communication
Difficulty with reciprocal interaction
Difficulty understanding how to point out things of interest
Limited range of communicative functions
Impaired ability to initiate and maintain conversation
Question: What are the unique language characteristics of individuals with autism?
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Books on the Characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorders:
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Books on Language and Communication Issues in Individuals with ASD :
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Books on Typical Language and Communication Development: