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1.3. Describe different forms of communication used by individuals with autism.

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Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) exhibit a wide array of communication forms, reflecting the spectrum’s diverse nature. Their communication methods can range from spoken language to various alternative and augmentative forms, tailored to each individual’s specific needs, abilities, and preferences.

Many individuals with autism utilise verbal communication as their primary way to interact. The proficiency in verbal communication among people with autism varies significantly. Some might be fluent in speech, while others might use only limited words and phrases. Challenges often arise in the pragmatics of language, such as understanding idiomatic expressions or sarcasm, as they may interpret language very literally.

Non-verbal communication, encompassing expressions without words like facial expressions, gestures, and body language, is also significant. While some individuals with autism might struggle with conventional non-verbal cues, they often develop unique non-verbal methods of their own to communicate, like specific gestures or body movements.

Echolalia, the repetition of words or phrases, is commonly observed in individuals with autism. This behavior can serve multiple purposes, including communication, self-regulation, or as part of language development. In addition to echolalia, alternative and augmentative communication (AAC) methods are widely used. These include the Picture Exchange Communication Systems (PECS), where pictures or symbols are used to convey wants and needs; communication boards or devices that utilize symbols, words, or pictures; and Makaton is especially beneficial for those who have limited verbal capabilities.

Written communication is another avenue for those with strong literacy skills. It ranges from traditional writing on paper to digital forms like typing on computers or mobile devices. Assistive technologies, including specialized software and apps, are increasingly being used to aid communication, particularly for non-verbal individuals or those with limited speech. For example, typed text may be synthesised into voice output.

Some individuals with autism use facilitated communication, where a facilitator helps guide the hand or arm of the individual to type or point to letters, words, or symbols on a communication board.

Behavioral communication is also notable, where certain behaviors serve as a means to express needs, emotions, or to avoid situations.

Finally, social stories and scripts are valuable tools in teaching and practicing appropriate social interactions. They provide narratives that explain social cues, perspectives of others, and appropriate responses in various social settings.

Each form of communication is unique to the individual with autism, highlighting the importance of understanding and respecting these differences for effective support and interaction.

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