Communication and Atypical Language Development

Nancy J. Aguinaga, Ph.D.
Communication and Atypical
Language Development
Dr. Ray’s Early Childhood Specialists
Session Overview
Overview of:
- Communication and Language
- Impairments in Communication and Language
- Social Interaction
- Communicative Context of Autism Spectrum
Disorder (ASD)
- Communication Assessment~
- Communication Interventions
• Identify the attributes of communication and
• Identify characteristics of atypical language
development and communication.
• Implement several strategies to foster
• Speech- neuromuscular act of producing
• Language- a shared code by a group of people;
rule-governed symbol system
• Communication- a process to exchange
information, ideas, needs, wants
What are the components needed for successful communication?
A sender of the message
A receiver of the message
A shared intent to communicate
A shared means of communication
Impairments in Communication
• Development of spoken language
• Initiate or sustain conversation
• Repetitive use or language or idiosyncratic
• Lack of age appropriate play
Characteristics of language disorder
• Impaired comprehension (receptive) and/or
use of spoken, written, and/or other symbol
system (expressive)
• May involve:
The form of language: phonology, morphology,
The content of language: semantics
The function of language in communication
(pragmatics) in any combination
Language Disorders
Impaired comprehension in:
– Form
• phonology-sound system
– Phoneme- smallest linguistic unit of sound that can signal a
difference in meaning
» e.g. – bill, pill
• morphology-words
– Morpheme-smallest unit of meaning in a language
» e.g. – base, baseball, basement
• syntax-rules of phrases, sentences (article, noun, verb)
– Content
• semantics-meaning of words
– Function or Use
• pragmatics- use of language for communication
– Includes rules of social interaction, conversation
• Broca’s video
– Patients with Expressive aphasia, also known as
Broca's aphasia, are individuals who know "what
they want to say, they just cannot get it out."
They are typically able to understand what is
being said to them, but unable to fluently speak.
• Wernicke video
– Individuals with Receptive aphasia (also known as
Wernicke's aphasia ) may speak in long sentences
that have no meaning, add unnecessary words,
and even create new "words" (neologisms).
Language Acquisition
Physiological development is a necessary
prerequisite for language development
– Brain – Central nervous system
– Articulation – production of sounds
• Lips, teeth, tongue, palate
– Resonation – shapes the tone
• Mouth, nasal cavity
– Phonation – source of noise
• Larnyx
– Respiration – muscles
• Inhalation-thoracic, Exhalation-abdominal
Possible relationships between cognition and language
• Language determines thought - Whorf
• Language is dependent on cognition – Piaget
• Language and cognition are interdependent –
• Language and cognition develop independently –
Individual differences in development
Language Acquisition
• Children learn language by participating in the
linguistic environment all around them~
• They are active participants in this process
The role that social interaction plays in language acquisition
Physical development alone cannot explain the emergence of
Exposure to language during the infant and preschool years is very
important (Hart & Risely, 1995)
Importance of inclusion
• Children learn language by participating in the linguistic
environment all around them~
• They are active participants in this process
– Need something to talk about
– Motivation
Impairments in Social Interaction
Nonverbal behaviors
Peer relationships
Seeking interaction with others~
Social or emotional reciprocity
Critical Skills for Development of Social Communication
Social Skills
Expressive Language
Receptive Language
Nonverbal Communication
Developmentally Appropriate Tasks/Play
Cognitive Skills
Appropriate Behaviors
3 Considerations for Communication Assessment
• Frequency
• Form
• Function
Four assessment principles of persons with
communication impairments
• All people communicate
• Assessment should be a process
• Assessment should be functional~
• Assessment should involve more than the
person with the exceptionality
Communication Intervention
• Recommendations:
– Intervention should target functional and
spontaneous communication
– Social skills instruction should occur across
settings, specifically those in which the child
Communication Questions to Consider
Is there a reason for the child to communicate?
– Does the child possess the motivation, or intent to
• Children with autism(especially) generally will not
engage in communicative interactions unless they are
motivated to do so.
Communication Questions to Consider, cont….
• Does the child initiate and/or respond to
communicative interactions?
– Can the individual understand and participate in both roles of the
communication process?
• Example- a child leads his mom to the refrigerator where he places her
hand on the handle. The child then makes facial gestures as to whether he
likes or dislikes the food the mother takes out.
• Can the child use repair strategies when
communication breaks down.
– Does child repeat the attempt
– Can he show the person what they are trying to communicate
– Can he use an alternative way to communicate message
After Considering the Previous Questions, Develop an
Intervention Program
• Develop Communicative Intent
• Cause/effect reasoning- this strategy promotes
understanding that a specific effort will produce an
enjoyable outcome. (ex: stand on stool to get cookie on table)
• Joint Activity Routines- highly predictable routines
that produce a desired outcome. (ex:play routines with
simple toys, food making routines such as making chocolate milk,
tickle games.)
• Delay responses to anticipated wants/needsdelay the need or want in an effort to give the child an
opportunity to communicate the desire in another
Use Alternative Communication System
• Gestural- includes pointing, looking to desired items.
• Object Exchange- child gives object to another person to indicate he
wants something. Ex: (child gives cup to person to indicate he wants a
• Picture Point System- points to various visual representations to
indicate what the child wants. Ex: (photos, real drawings, line drawings,
written words.)
• Picture Exchange system (PECS)- exchanging picture to initiate a
request. ex: (child hands a picture of a swing to an adult to let them know
they want to swing.)
• Electronic/alternative keyboards or computers- child uses a
keyboard to communicate through use of reading and writing skills.~
• Voice Output Communication Aids- aids that allow a child to push a
button to replay a prerecorded message.
Social Stories
• Social stories were developed by Carol Gray
and are very useful for teaching social skills to
students on the autism spectrum.
• They are stories written from the child’s
perspective intended to teach social skills to
• The social stories are short simple descriptions
of social situations explained to the student.
To construct a social story, four types of sentences are
• Descriptive sentences describe the behavior steps. They
include the who, what, where, and why of the behavior.
There should be several descriptive sentences.
• Directive sentences direct the individual to the desired
response. This is where the appropriate behavior is
positively stated. Keep it brief.
• Perspective sentences describe the thoughts and feelings
of others in the situation. Give an outside account of how
the behavior is perceived by others. There may be several
perspective sentences.
• Control sentences are statements where the individual
constructs a memory cue or mnemonic to help him or her
remember the story and the desired behavior. They are not
appropriate for every story or helpful to all individuals or
situations. This should also be brief.
Social Story Example
After lunch we go to recess.
Sometimes recess is on the playground.
A lot of the children play on the playground equipment.
It is fun to play on the playground equipment.
Everyone should play safely.
When the whistle blows that means it is time to line up and
go inside.
I will try to line up as soon as the whistle blows.
This will make my teachers happy.
After I line up I will try to stay in line.
Everyone will be proud of me!
Develop the ability to both respond to and
initiate communication
• Responding to Information: how the child processes
information should be considered prior to teaching him to
respond to communicate.
– If child’s ability to process visual information is strong, use this method.
– If child’s ability to process auditory information is poor, find another method.
Just choose method where his ability is strong.
• Initiating a Communication: Communicative
situations should be created using things which are motivating
to the child in an established familiar joint attention routine.
– Example: Blowing Bubbles, Once activity has been established, close the
bubble lid tightly and place in front of child. This creates an incentive for the
child to communicate that he wants more bubbles.
Develop Strategies to Repair Breakdowns in Receiving
• The following strategies can be used to prevent breakdowns,
or assist the child in repairing breakdowns in communication
when receiving information.
– Secure the child’s attention prior to communicating by calling his
name or physically prompting the child
– Monitor signs of comprehension
– Use simple short sentences
– Reduce the amount of auditory information given
– Give the child time to respond before repeating, due to the possibility
of delayed auditory processing
– Use of various visual support strategies to ensure that the child
understands the messages given
Develop Strategies to Repair Breakdowns in Expressive
• Children with autism can be taught repair
strategies as well.
– Strategies include:
Teach child to repeat communicative attempt
Teach child persistence
Teach child to learn to respond to “show me”
Teach child to learn alternative communication systems
if appropriate.
– Ex, (child vocalizes loudly at a high shelf. Adult encourages
child to use his P.E.C.S. communication books to
The Communicative Context of Autism
• Taylor
• Range from mutism to higher order social
– Gestures – contact with objects or persons
– Vocalizations – characterized by infrequent use of
– Echolalia – immediate; speech repetitions
immediately follow original utterance or
delayed - speech repetitions occur after a period
of time
Communication in Individuals with ASD
• Better understanding of nouns vs. other parts
of speech (e.g., runner vs. running)
• Difficulty understanding ‘bound morphemes’,
or tense (e.g., work vs. worked)~
• Impaired understanding and use of pragmatics
“Mind the Gap” strategy in Catherine Faherty’s book,
“Asperger’s…What Does It Mean To Me?”
The period of time during which a child faced with a situation
can choose a response or course of action.
Modified strategy called “the choice zone”.
• Show the schedule of the day
• Use checklists in a variety of settings~
• Answer 4 questions from the work system
– What work?
– How much work?
– How do I know when I am finished?
– What comes next
Catherine Faherty, Ashville TEACCH Center
Social Thinking I LAUGH Framework
Social cognition framework which explains the multiple skills and
concepts that must be processed and reacted to in order to
succeed at social interaction and personal problem solving.
– I = Initiation of Communication
– L= Listening With Eyes and Brain
– A = Abstract and Inferential
– U = Understanding Perspective
– G= Gestalt Processing/Getting the Big Picture
– H= Humor and Human Relatedness
Michelle Garcia Winner
Conversational strategies
• Take turns in the circle: others listen than
comment or ask a question
• Option to say: “I’m open for questions”
• Visual cue for turn taking
• “I am interested in talking about_______.”
“What are you interested in talking about?”
• Say three things about a topic~
• Do something together, and then talk about it
• Be Clear
• Be Literal
• Refrain from double meanings; sarcasm,
• Make no assumptions (facial expressions,
body language)
• Daily “Check-in’s”
• Say “I need more information.”~
• Try multiple choice format to get information
Catherine Faherty, Ashville TEACCH Center
• Engage and motivate
• Use Special Interests
– Incidental teaching – teach through student’s
“You know one person with autism, you know
one person with autism”
Taylor Morris (people first)
• What did I learn?
• Why did I learn it?
• How can I use it?
Presentation available at
One thing I learned
Please respond to the following items on a
sheet of notebook paper and give to me on your
way out.
1. Something new I learned from today’s class
2. I’m still unsure about…

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