Despite a surge in research and public interest in autism in recent decades, we still do not know why functional speech remains elusive for some people with autism. "Little is known about this group because they are rarely the focus of research," according to a 2013 article by some of the top U.S. experts in autism.1
As a result, misperceptions may linger about these children and adults, about how much language they understand, how they learn, and the best ways to help them communicate. "When someone is nonverbal," Mrs. Drebing said, "people tend to think they're lower-functioning than they actually are. We need more data on the true intellectual level of people who are nonverbal."
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