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Autism or A Speech Problem?



My 4 year old son has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.  He seems like a regular child, the only concern we have is his speech.  He talks a lot but has some difficulty trying to tell his mind.  He likes playing with other children, usually he chases them or makes noises instead of speaking to them. Do you think it could be autism or just a speech problem? The doctor told us that during the visit, my son avoided eye contact most of the time.


I think the question you are asking is, "Does my son have autism OR a speech problem only?" Autism is what we call a pervasive developmental delay; it affects many aspects of a child's development: his speech and language, his behavior, and his social development (and possibly many additional areas in addition to these core areas). 

A speech problem affects only one aspect of a child's development: his/her speech and language development.  Many times children with speech and language disorders also have behavioral and/or social interaction difficulties, but these are secondary to the primary speech/language disorder.

All children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder have a speech (or language) disorder.  When you observe your son, look at how he interacts with others, how he uses his speech to communicate and have conversations with others, and how he plays with toys and people.  When a clinician sees a child with behavioral concerns in all these areas and the child presents as significantly different from his/her typically developing peers, the diagnosis of autism is more fitting than speech/language disorder.  If a clinician does not see pervasive developmental differences in the core areas, then autism may not be the correct diagnosis.

Intervention for your son should address his communication and language difficulties so he can have social friendly interactions with his peers and so he can use language to learn about the world.

For more information:

Go to the Autism health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Paula C Rabidoux, PhD/CCC-SLP Paula C Rabidoux, PhD/CCC-SLP
Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry
Clinical Associate Professor of Speech & Hearing
College of Social and Behavioral Sciences
The Ohio State University