Words are not enough

Vocabulary Development and Asperger Syndrome

First words at 12 months

First words at 12 months

“Mama!” screamed the toddler from his crib. Usually children say their first words by 12 months,  as do some children on the autism spectrum; however, children with Asperger’s syndrome first word are often more complex than typically developing children.

For example, a child with Asperger’s syndrome may say “airplane” as their first word because airplanes are a special interest rather than the typical “mama” or “dada” given by most children. Often a difference cited between those on the autism spectrum and those diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome is that people with Asperger’s syndrome display normal rates of language development.

People diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome are usually seen as having normal language development, due to their extensive vocabulary. However, when working with this population, it is always notable that they do not use language in a typical manner.   Often a story told by someone with Asperger’s syndrome,  gives a series of details or focuses on their area of interest. Although they have the words to give a greeting, often people with Asperger syndrome don’t.  Why are these things important? Humans connect and gain information through greetings and story telling.  Limited ability to tell a story or greet family and friends is a crippling social deficit. These skills are part of the fabric of our social interactions. People with Asperger syndrome require direct instruction in how to use language in a flexible and natural setting.

From early childhood, those with Asperger Syndrome often have normal or even advanced word acquisition, making vocabulary a relative strength, but their deficit is in language usage.   In structured activities, one-word tasks and around their special interests people with Asperger syndrome often demonstrate solid language abilities; however when required to tell a story or simply greet a friend or relative their language skills often are inadequate.

Asperger Syndrome. (n.d.). Retrieved March 17, 2015, from https://www.autismspeaks.org/

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