Autism, which affects thought, perception and attention, is not just one disorder with a well defined set of symptoms; autism is a broad spectrum of disorders that ranges from mild to severe. In addition, the behavior usually occurs across many different situations and is consistently inappropriate for the child's age.
For a child to be labeled as a child with Autism in the school setting, Autism must impact the child's ability to function within his or her educational setting. A child can have a medical diagnosis of Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder, and not meet the criteria for educational Autism set by the Wisconsin Department of Instruction (DPI). A child may instead meet the criteria as a child with Autism in the educational setting without a medical diagnosis. To be considered a child with educational Autism, the child must meet BOTH of the following criteria:
1. The child displays difficulties or differences
or both in interacting with people and events.
The child may be unable to establish and
maintain reciprocal relationships with people.
The child may see consistency in environmental
events to the point of exhibiting rigidity in routines.
2. The child displays problems which extend
beyond speech and language to other
aspects of social communication, both
receptively and expressively. The child's
verbal language may be absent or, if present,
lacks the usual communicative form
which may involve deviance or delay or both.
The child may have a speech or
language disorder or both in addition to
communication difficulties associated with
The DPI also requires that at least ONE of the following criteria must be checked "Yes:"
1. The child exhibits delays, arrests, or
regressions in motor, sensory, social or
learning skills. The child may exhibit
precocious or advanced skill development,
while other skills may develop at normal or
extremely depressed rates. The child
may not follow developmental patterns in the
acquisition of skills.
2. The child exhibits abnormalities in the
thinking process and in generalizing. The
child exhibits strengths in concrete thinking
while difficulties are demonstrated in
abstract thinking, awareness and judgment.
Perseverant thinking and impaired
ability to process symbolic information
may be present.
3. The child exhibits unusual, inconsistent,
repetitive or unconventional responses to
sounds, sights, smells, tastes, touch or
movement. The child may have a visual or
hearing impairment or both in addition to
sensory processing difficulties associated
4. The child displays marked distress over
changes, insistence on following routines,
and a persistent preoccupation with or
attachment to objects. The child's capacity
to use objects in an age-appropriate or
functional manner may be absent, arrested
or delayed. The child may have difficulty
displaying a range of interests or
imaginative activities or both. The child may
exhibit stereotyped body movements.
Social communication, or pragmatic language, involves three major communication skills:
Using language for different purposes, such as
greeting (e.g., hello, goodbye)
informing (e.g., I'm going to get a cookie)
demanding (e.g., Give me a cookie)
promising (e.g., I'm going to get you a cookie)
requesting (e.g., I would like a cookie, please)
Changing language according to the needs of a listener or situation, such as
talking differently to a baby than to an adult
giving background information to an unfamiliar listener
speaking differently in a classroom than on a playground
Following rules for conversations and storytelling, such as
taking turns in conversation
introducing topics of conversation
staying on topic
rephrasing when misunderstood
how to use verbal and nonverbal signals
how close to stand to someone when speaking
how to use facial expressions and eye contact
These rules may vary across cultures and within cultures. It is important to understand the rules of your communication partner.
An individual with pragmatic problems may:
say inappropriate or unrelated things during conversations
tell stories in a disorganized way
have little variety in language use
It is not unusual for children to have pragmatic problems in only a few situations. However, if problems in social language use occur often and seem inappropriate considering the child's age, a pragmatic disorder may exist. Pragmatic disorders often coexist with other language problems such as vocabulary development or grammar. Pragmatic problems can lower social acceptance. Peers may avoid having conversations with an individual with a pragmatic disorder.
Pragmatic Language Tips
Parents, caregivers, families, and teachers can help individuals use language appropriately in social situations (pragmatics). Some general suggestions to help develop skills in three major pragmatic areas are listed below.
Using Language for Different Purposes
Ask questions or make suggestions to use language for different purposes:
Desired Language Function
Suggested Question or Comment
"Tell me about..."
"Tell your friend..."
"What do you want?"
Respond to the intended message rather than correcting the pronunciation or grammar. Be sure to provide an appropriate model in your own speech. For example, if an individual says, "That's how it doesn't go," respond, "You're right. That's not how it goes."
Take advantage of naturally occurring situations. For example, practice greetings at the beginning of a day, have the individual ask peers what they want to eat for dinner, or request necessary materials to complete a project.
To contact a speech-language pathologist, contact your child's school, Pulaski Community School District's Student Services office (920-822-6020) or visit ASHA's Find a Professional.