Language Acquisition and Communicative Behavior in Autism
Deviant language characteristics, deficits in social interaction, and ritualistic and compulsive behaviors are now considered to be among the definitive characteristics of the autistic syndrome. There have been few attempts to bring a sense of cohesion to the varied communicative symptomatology evident in autism, because much of the research literature has been product oriented rather than process oriented, and has focused on language structure rather than function. Therefore, behaviors such as immediate echolalia, delayed echolalia, and interactive rituals as often viewed as isolated, deviant phenomena, rather than as phenomena related to predominant cognitive processing modes and cognitive-linguistic development in autism. This discussion reviews symptomatology of autistic communication in reference to "gestalt" versus "analytic" modes of cognitive processing, language acquisition, and language use. Based on research on language behavior of normal and autistic children, specific issues are considered, including a reconsideration of echolalic behaviors, patterns of social interaction, and patterns of cognitive-linguistic development in autism.