PROSODY AND AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDERS

Prosodic Ability in Children with Autism.

At present no prosody therapy programmes exist. In the meantime, there is much that parents, carers and professionals can do to help reduce the effects of disordered communication on prosody:

· Remember that a person with autism might have difficulty understanding things that are expressed by prosody alone. So, for example, when asking a question, you should use question words such as “who, where, why” rather than turning a statement into a question using tone of voice.

· Don’t rely on a person with autism understanding that the tone of voice you are using means that you feel a certain way; tell the person explicitly.

· Remember that people with autism may have difficulty using prosody to express how they feel. For example, he may be excited but sound uninterested, or vice versa. If you are not sure, then ask.

· If children or adults have unusual expressive prosody, which makes them sound different to their peers, then explain to the peers that they have a problem affecting the way they sound when they speak.


Implications of Disordered Prosody for Communication.

A difficulty in understanding and using prosody may have many consequences for communication. For example, if children have monotonous prosody, they may sound disinterested in something because they don’t know how to use prosody to express enthusiasm. Or, if they cannot hear the stress on a word in a sentence, they might miss the important point of what is being said to them; and if they stress the wrong word by mistake they may sound concerned about something when they are not.

In ordinary speech people do not take much notice of prosody because there are many other strands to meaning - words, grammar, context, facial expressions - that go along with it; but when language is limited to short phrases, prosody becomes more important. Despite these difficulties, prosody is rarely addressed in speech and language therapy. The results of our study show that Speech and Language Therapists need to be aware that prosodic difficulties may have an effect on other, more general, communication difficulties.


Useful Links for More Information on Autism:
The National Autistic Society
The Autism Society of America


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