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The Battle To Be Heard: Autism, Language, And Communication

2269 words - 9 pages

Humans rely on speech every day because it is an integral part of our civilization. From a philosopher’s standpoint, one could say that our ability to communicate verbally is part of what makes us human. What, then, would the philosopher say about those who are incapable of verbal communication? This is the plight of those who either have severe difficulty with speech or altogether lack the ability to speak due to autism. For autistic individuals, this is their reality: a world with limited, and sometimes completely devoid of, vocabulary. Autism is a fairly common condition that affects about 5 in 10,000 individuals (Piven, 1997), and with it comes the language deficit that partially defines the condition itself. Difficulties with language use and acquisition are two prominent symptoms of autism, and there may also be issues with nonverbal communication. These difficulties in turn lead to problems with social interactions. Research has suggested a number of brain irregularities that are responsible for the language deficits, and although the irregularities cannot be corrected, some progress has been made in designing methods that can be used to aid in language acquisition.Language deficits are the most variable aspect of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Some autistic individuals can develop a somewhat functional vocabulary and some language fluency. These people can express themselves and their thoughts, although slowly and with varying degrees of difficulty. Speech impediments, such as lisps, are common. Conversely, some autistic people will never speak, and instead rely solely on nonverbal communication. Some nonverbal autistic individuals express themselves in other ways, including mathematical, artistic, or musical savantism. No one knows why language use has such a broad range of severity in ASD, but there are ways to estimate an autistic individual’s future language potential. Timing is an important factor when considering how an autistic individual’s language skills will develop into adulthood; if language is acquired by at least age 5, there is a greater chance of developing some measure of fluency (Kleinhans, Müller, Cohen, Courchesne, 2008). Still, about half of individuals with an ASD remain nonverbal for life. Researchers have attempted to pinpoint the cause of these prevalent communication shortcomings seen in autism.The phrase “hemisphere lateralization” is used to describe how each brain hemisphere is specialized for specific tasks. For example, scientists generally consider the left brain to be the language center, and the right brain the center of musical and artistic ability. Researchers Kleinhans, Cohen, Müller, and Courchesne (2008) hypothesized that autistic individuals’ language deficits are caused by an atypical organization of language function – the autistic brain does not process language information in the left hemisphere language centers. To test their hypothesis, the...

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