Social communication may seem like a redundant term. Communication is inherently social: It requires the ability to share — in an appropriate manner — what you feel or want to say, and also to understand and respond to what others are feeling or saying. In neurotypical people, communication disorders can include problems with language, but not with social interaction. People with autism, though, are particularly challenged by communicating in social contexts. Experts use the phrase ‘social communication’ to emphasize that fact.
What sorts of problems with social communication are most common in people with autism?
Individuals on the spectrum have been shown to face challenges with a range of verbal and nonverbal skills, including grammar, the correct use of pronounsand responding when spoken to. Differences in some nonverbal aspects of communication, such as facial expressions and the tempo of speech, may account for what others perceive as ‘awkwardness’ in people with autism.
As with so many autism features, there is tremendous variability from one person to the next. Still, problems with two aspects of communication stand out: pragmatics and prosody.