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Friday 19 Jan 2018

Challenges for ASD

What are the communication challenges for individuals with ASD?

Communication is a process where we assign and express meaning in an attempt to create shared understanding. This process requires the coordination of many skills (ex. listening, observing, questioning, analyzing, and evaluating).  During typical speech and language development, children learn to transfer these skills to all areas of life: home, school, community, work, and beyond.  It is through communication that children express their thoughts and ideas, learn new things and build relationships with others.

For many children with autism, communication can be challenging.  Possible signs and symptoms may include:

  • Limited or lack of verbal speech
  • Difficulty expressing needs and wants
  • Echolalia (repeating a word or phrase that has been previously heard)
  • Loss of words that the child was previously able to say
  • Inability to identify objects (poor vocabulary development)
  • Difficulty answering questions
  • Limited attention to people and objects in environment
  • Poor response to verbal instructions
  • Disruptive behaviors to gain access to or avoid items, activities, people or places

Communicating during social situations may also be a challenge for individuals with ASD.  They may have a difficult time interacting with others, appear to have little or no interest in making friends, or not know how to interact with others in a social manner.  In addition, individuals with ASD may have difficulty understanding the emotions of others and may respond inappropriately.  This may lead to misunderstandings in the communication exchange.

Sensory issues can also effect communication. There may be certain sounds, tastes or sights that cause anxiety or provoke an unusual response. The response may not make sense to others because the individual with autism does not have the tools or ability to appropriately communicate the reasons for his or her response.

What can be done to better support communication?

The first step in supporting the communication development of someone with autism is to have a complete evaluation by a Speech-Language Pathologist.  This evaluation would determine both communication and social needs of the child.   Once the evaluation is completed, an appropriate treatment plan that meets the needs of the child and their family will be developed.  The overall objective of Speech-Language Pathology services is to optimize the individual ability to communicate in all environments, thereby improving quality of life.

Speech and language treatment may include a combination of traditional speech and language approaches, behavior modification strategies and augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) interventions.



  1. Laura Dengler says:

    Hello! My name is Laura Dengler and I am a Ph.D. student in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Penn State University. I work with Dr. Kathryn Drager and Dr. Erinn Finke.

    We hope that you can help us with some exciting research. We would like to learn about the experience of being a parent of a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). We recognize that parents have many different experiences, and we are interested in learning about how having a child on the autism spectrum affects how you parent your child.

    We are inviting parents of children with an ASD to join an online discussion group (focus group) over a period of approximately 4-6 weeks. We want to learn about the experiences of those parents and how they compare to parents in similar situations over time. We would like to learn about the issues that parents feel are unique and specific to having a child with an ASD. We plan to share what we learn with each participant and other parents of children with an ASD.

    If you are a parent who has a child with an ASD, please consider participating in this important study. For more information about this research, please contact me at or via phone at (814) 867-3375.


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