New Research in the Battle against Autism; Study Reveals Early Communication Skills Gap

The Journal (Newcastle, England), January 25, 2012 | Go to article overview
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New Research in the Battle against Autism; Study Reveals Early Communication Skills Gap


Byline: Helen Rae

RESEARCH in the North East has identified a way that could help people with autism improve their condition.

A study led by Durham University found that if children with the condition were encouraged to "talk things through in their head" when solving complex everyday tasks then it would help improve their communication skills.

It was identified that the method of "inner speech" is used in children with autism but not always in the same way as typically developing children do.

The team of psychologists found that the use, or lack of, thinking in words is strongly linked to the extent of someone's communication impairments which are rooted in early childhood.

As a result the team have suggested that by encouraging inner speech in people with autism it would help them to better express themselves verbally in later life.

Dr David Williams, lecturer in the Department of Psychology at Durham University, said: "In all autism research this is a small step forward. It is a promising avenue in one piece of a big puzzle in understanding the condition.

"These results show that inner speech has its roots in interpersonal communication with others early in life, and it demonstrates that people who are poor at communicating with others will generally be poor at communicating with themselves.

"It also shows that there is a critical distinction between being able to express yourself verbally and actually using silent language for problem-solving."

In the study, 15 high-functioning adults with the condition and 16 comparison participants were asked to complete a commonly used task which measures planning ability. The task consists of five coloured disks that can be arranged on three individual pegs.

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