Communication is really a complex cognitive activity. The act of communicating takes either the verbal or the non-verbal feature or combines both. Communication skills are developmental and they are composed of a number of components. Communication includes pragmatics, which is the social use of language and semantics, which is the understanding of words. Statistics show that between 7% and 14% of world’s children have difficulties in the acquisition of some or all of these normal language skills.
Delayed language acquisition is a common problem in children at the early stages of development. From many cases reported in medical centres within United States, deficits in socialisation, non-verbal communication, and several unusual and persistent behaviours are features existent in many children in the states. It is the pervasiveness and persistence of the respective deficits that differentiate children suffering from autism with those having specific language developmental disorders. However, early therapy referral is beneficial in both cases.
Barnard (2004) argued that children with considerable language disorders could present actually with some autistic features. This may diminish as they grow up and improve their language and communication skills. It is notable that in children less than 2 years of age, it is very difficult to distinguish what the child is suffering from between autism and non-autistic symptoms. At such an age, it is more significant to identify the specific areas that need improvements and provide reasonable intervention than to literally wait for a diagnosis. Reviewing the child’s progress and performing diagnosis from time to time is the key to developing solutions for improvements on communication disorders (Barnard, 2004).
Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) is in use mostly when describing the range of behavioural phenotype as well as severities part of the continuum from literally “normal” to “disordered” communication development, interests and socialisation. ASD generally includes atypical autism, autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder (PDD). Ward (1999) named some characteristics of autistic disorder as qualitative impairment in general communication and social interaction. Other features include repetitive and stereotyped patterns of interests, behaviour and activities. These features are present in all autistic individuals but clinical manifestation as well as functional disability varies depending on age, co morbidity, linguistic and cognitive ability, family and social environment.
A communication disorder on the other hand differs a lot with autism. It is like a language disorder with an impaired ability in an individual to understand or share with others the feelings and ideas. It is also revealed mostly in impairment to comprehend written or spoken language. Some of the features of a communication disorder include speech disorder. This is the difficulty in production of speech correctly provoking the use of voice. Stuttering is also a part of the communication disorder. It is signalled by an interruption of speech flow. The other major characteristic of a communication disorder and not autism is Voice. This is the speech quality for instance nasality, hoarseness or volume (Fletcher, 2000).
Behaviour is something crucial in determining whether it is communication disorder or autism. There are common weird behaviours when a child has autism very different from when with communication disorder. Lining up of objects like toy cars repetitively, walking on toes most of the time, flapping wings repeatedly when exited and looking at objects with the corner of the eye are some of the weird behaviours that are an alarm to autism. They may be normal if a child only does it occasionally. However, repeated behaviour should draw your concern because it is a possible symptom of autism.
Parents anxious to know and develop a distinction of communication disorder and autism have very many questions running through their heads. Some possible questions that are likely a feature of their concern include:
- What is mild autism?
- Between autism and communication disorder, which is the most serious?
- Which one between autism and communication disorder is the patient capable of recovering fast?
- What are some of the behaviours in an autistic or non-autistic child?
- How can one measure the prevalence of autism?
- What are some of the interventions applicable in handling communication disorders
- Do communication disorders have any side effects to the patient
Identification of autism requires some form of developmental surveillance. Routine developmental surveillance is effective in identifying children with a likelihood of developing autism disorders. Some of the instruments used include Parents’ Evaluation of Developmental Status (PEDS), stages, age’s questionnaire, and screen’s series. Another mode of assessment would be a follow up of any regression in language as well as socialisation skills noted in hand before 18 months of child’s age. There are other medical assessments including screening tests that involve serum lead level iron and folate levels, a full blood count, and vitamin B12 levels, thyroid function tests, a urine metabolic screen and creatine kinase level (Ward, 1999).
Behaviour is an area under scrutiny when identifying the autism problem. In this case, you will have to refer the child to a speech therapist. He expresses concerns on the child’s general development and other unusual behaviours. The challenge is the way the speech therapists handles the child yet he is not used to him. The therapist might diagnose wrongly, when the child’s receptiveness is because of reaction to a stranger but not in reality autism. The assessment of behaviour to determine the condition of the child is also challenging because it might not produce valid results. Assumptions that aggression and self-injury are reactions because of autism is wrong, the reactions might be emanating from other stimulants in the child’s biological system.