More about communication

Communication problems of autistic people may originate from a more or less disturbed language development. Some are good talkers, but not in a way which is appropriate to the situation or the person. Often they find it difficult to start and maintain a conversation, especially with strangers. Sometimes there is peculiar language or vocabulary, such as speaking bookish language or pronoun reversal or misuse. (I.e. indicating oneself as ‘he’ or ‘she’.)

In children varied, spontaneous pretend play or social imitative play, is often lacking. Communication problems can often be traced back to a cognitive inability to understand symbols, in this case the symbolic use of language, but also abstractions and complex sentences.

‘Qualitative impairments in communication’ were not mentioned in the old DSM for Asperger’s syndrome where this was a separate category. In the latest DSM-5, however, Asperger’s is dissolved into a continuum in which “persistent difficulties in the social use of verbal and nonverbal communication” is one of the main autism symptoms. When communication difficulties are less severe, they may only manifest themselves when the social demands exceed one’s capacities, such as in close contact with others.

The relevance of communication problems for autism-friendly design may not be immediately apparent. They are, however, which becomes more obvious when one realizes that the built environment sets important conditions under which social life is lived. When laying out the relevant autistic characteristics here, we briefly summarize the main area’s where autistic limitations and peculiarities interact with the physical environment. Communication problems are among them; these too are a strong motive for autism-friendly design.