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Understanding autism
Understanding autism

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2.2 Communicating with language

In autism, difficulties in using language for communication range from the total absence of speech (without the use of gestures to compensate) to the use of language that is excessively repetitive or unusually stereotyped. Some may only speak in certain circumstances, such as with people they know very well. This is known as selective mutism. Speech may also seem unusual to others in terms of qualities such as intonation (the way it rises and falls), pitch (whether the speech is high or low) and stress (the use of emphasis to mark particular words or phrases).

Even when an autistic person has fluent language, there are likely to be other problems of communication, such as difficulty in taking turns when talking to others. Turn-taking – where one person speaks and then listens to what another has to say in response – is fundamental for dialogue or two-way conversation. Without this skill, an autistic person may constantly interrupt when others are talking, or deliver long monologues on a subject which fascinates them, without noticing whether this is of interest to those listening.