Nonverbal Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Why Don’t They Speak?

Maria Mody


The presence of even one word or some echolalic speech appears to be a significant predictor of spoken language acquisition in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). However, for a substantial subgroup of children on the spectrum who are nonverbal, the acquisition of functional speech remains elusive despite years of evidence-based intervention. These children have highly variable characteristics which, along with their challenging behaviors, pose a significant problem for assessment of cognition and language. This review highlights the growing need to develop creative measures of performance and brain activity that can reliably and accurately capture the strengths and weaknesses of this group. Comprehensive behavioral and/or augmentative treatments call for targeting key symptom areas of intentional communication, language, social and motor skills.


autism spectrum disorder, nonverbal, social communication, motor, speech, language

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