Assburger - Characteristics - Speech and Language

Speech and Language

Although individuals with Asperger syndrome acquire language skills without significant general delay and their speech typically lacks significant abnormalities, language acquisition and use is often atypical. Abnormalities include verbosity, abrupt transitions, literal interpretations and miscomprehension of nuance, use of metaphor meaningful to only the speaker, auditory perception deficits, unusually pedantic, formal or idiosyncratic speech, and oddities in loudness, pitch, intonation, prosody, and rhythm. Echolalia has also been observed in individuals with AS.

Three aspects of communication patterns are of clinical interest: poor prosody, tangential and circumstantial speech, and marked verbosity. Although inflection and intonation may be less rigid or monotonic than in classic autism, people with AS often have a limited range of intonation: speech may be unusually fast, jerky or loud. Speech may convey a sense of incoherence; the conversational style often includes monologues about topics that bore the listener, fails to provide context for comments, or fails to suppress internal thoughts. Individuals with AS may fail to monitor whether the listener is interested or engaged in the conversation. The speaker's conclusion or point may never be made, and attempts by the listener to elaborate on the speech's content or logic, or to shift to related topics, are often unsuccessful.

Children with AS may have an unusually sophisticated vocabulary at a young age and have been colloquially called "little professors", but have difficulty understanding figurative language and tend to use language literally. Children with AS appear to have particular weaknesses in areas of nonliteral language that include humor, irony, teasing, and sarcasm. Although individuals with AS usually understand the cognitive basis of humor, they seem to lack understanding of the intent of humor to share enjoyment with others. Despite strong evidence of impaired humor appreciation, anecdotal reports of humor in individuals with AS seem to challenge some psychological theories of AS and autism.

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