Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a condition characterized by difficulties in social interaction and communication; symptoms of which start to become apparent in the first three years of life. They gradually continue to appear till age of six months and continue to progress until age two or three, at which point symptoms remain stable and carry on into the individual’s adulthood. Symptoms of ASD highly vary individual to individual, but most commonly individuals have trouble operating in social environments. Autistic people lack the ability to empathize with others, which typically results in the inability for them to follow social norms and to respond appropriately in situations that involve judging the emotions of others. This may give birth to an inability to communicate at all.
For years it was assumed that Autistic people did not feel emotion because they never expressed them the way typical people do. Individuals with Autistic Disorder have flat faces, with no exhibition of facial expressions. They appear emotionless and it is also difficult for them to identify and describe emotions. However, recent research studies have shown that autistic people do feel emotions but are unable to unravel them in an appropriate manner. Similarly, there was a wrong assumption that they do not have a need for friends, relationships and family but yet again this was the case seen because they fail to fulfill requirements for these in the best acceptable way. People with ASD are not able to understand abstract concepts, nor can they form meaning out of everyday conversational words that do not signify a concrete meaning for example metaphors. This can only be overcome by rigorous rote learning. The reasons are likely to include the following:
- Generally people with ASD have problems with language and communication. They are neither in a habit of using too much language, are neither exposed to too much language use and therefore lack the practice in communicating their stance.
- People with ASD are generally happier in formal structured situations. In other words, they are just never comfortable using informal language and avoid such occasions. So again, they are denied practice.
- A lot of conversational language involves the use of sarcasm. For example, the phrase ‘well that’s just great’ taken literally means high praise. On the other hand it can be used as sarcasm, taunt, disapproval and can be demoralizing. Again, people with ASD are poor at understanding sarcasm in particular and tone of voice in general.
- The theory of mind argues that people with ASD lack the ability to recognize that other people think differently. They do not have the maturity to understand the fact that everyone has their own personal perspectives about this world. This makes them have a very restricted view of the world and the language used.