Academic Vs Social Language


    Dr. James Mc Donald, Professor Emeritus, Speech & Language Pathology, Ohio State University

    I met a 5-year-old boy with autism from New York.  He played with me interactively, imitated many of my actions, took turns and stayed with me.  He communicated nonverbally but he didn’t say a word.  Then his father showed him a stack of cards and the boy named all of them verbally.  He named pictures like Giraffe, Yellow, Round.  I was surprised that he had so much language!  This boy had LANGUAGE but did not COMMUNICATE with it. He had language for words the school wanted but ones that had little daily communicative use. He acted as if language was for school but not for interacting.

    Then I gave him a word for what we were doing then waited and he began communicating with the new words. Once he heard words for his experiences such as throw, car, and up, he began communicating with them.  Be very careful that your child is using a social language for communication not just and academic language for performance or needs.

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