email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
12 and HoldingA Guide to Asperger SyndromeA Lethal InheritanceA Mother's Courage: Talking Back to AutismA Parent's Guide to Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning AutismA Special EducationA Toss Of The DiceA Tribe ApartA User Guide to the GF/CF Diet for Autism, Asperger Syndrome and AD/HDA Walk in the Rain With a BrainABC of Eating DisordersADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your LifeADHD Grown UpADHD in the Schools: Assessment and Intervention StrategiesAdolescence and Body ImageAdolescent DepressionAggression and Antisocial Behavior in Children and AdolescentsAll Alone in the UniverseAlpha GirlsAmericaAnother PlanetAntisocial Behavior in Children and AdolescentsAsperger Syndrome and Your ChildAsperger Syndrome, Adolescence, and IdentityAsperger's and GirlsAssessment of Childhood DisordersAttention Deficit DisorderAttention-Deficit Hyperactivity DisorderAttention-Deficit/Hyperactivity DisorderAutism - The Eighth Colour of the RainbowAutism and MeAutism's False ProphetsAutistic Spectrum DisordersBad GirlBeen There, Done That? DO THIS!Before I DieBetween Two WorldsBeyond AppearanceBig Mouth & Ugly GirlBipolar ChildrenBipolar Disorder in Childhood and Early AdolescenceBipolar DisordersBipolar KidsBlackwell Handbook of Childhood Cognitive DevelopmentBody Image, Eating Disorders, and ObesityBody Image, Eating Disorders, and Obesity in YouthBoy AloneBrain-Based Therapy with Children and AdolescentsBreaking PointBreathing UnderwaterBringing Up ParentsBullying and TeasingBullying PreventionBut I Love HimCan't Eat, Won't EatCaring for a Child with AutismCatalystChild and Adolescent PsychiatryChild and Adolescent Psychological DisordersChild and Adolescent PsychopathologyChild NeuropsychologyChild Well-BeingChildren and SexualityChildren Changed by TraumaChildren with Emerald EyesChildren with Sexual Behavior ProblemsChildren, Sexuality and SexualizationChildren’s Dreaming and the Development of Consciousness City of OneCommunication Issues In Autism And Asperger SyndromeConcepts of NormalityConcise Guide to Child and Adolescent PsychiatryConquering the Beast WithinConsuming KidsContesting ChildhoodCount Us InCrackedCrossesCutCyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy TeensDamageDemystifying the Autistic ExperienceDescartes' BabyDilemmas of DesireDirtyDisconnected KidsDoing SchoolDon't Bother Me Mom--I'm Learning!Don't Pick On MeDying to Be ThinEarly Intervention Programs and PoliciesEating an ArtichokeEducating Children With AutismEight Stories UpElijah's CupEmerald City BluesEmotional and Behavioral Problems of Young ChildrenEpilepticEthical Dilemmas in PediatricsEvery Girl Tells a StoryExiting NirvanaExploiting ChildhoodEye ContactFacing BipolarFamily HistoryFast GirlsForever YoungFreaks, Geeks and Asperger SyndromeFreewillFrictionGirl CultureGirl in the MirrorGirlfightingGirlhoodGirlWiseHandbook of Evidence-Based Therapies for Children and AdolescentsHandbook of Preschool Mental HealthHealing ADDHelping Children Cope With Disasters and TerrorismHelping Hyperactive KidsHelping Parents, Youth, and Teachers Understand Medications for Behavioral and Emotional ProblemsHelping Students Overcome Depression and AnxietyHelping Teens Who CutHollow KidsHope's BoyHow Infants Know MindsHow to Keep Your Teenager Out of Trouble and What to Do If You Can'tHurry Down SunshineI Am Not Joey PigzaIdentifying Hyperactive ChildrenIf Your Adolescent Has an Eating DisorderIn the Company of CraziesIncorporating Social Goals in the ClassroomIntegrated YogaIntrusive ParentingIssues for Families, Schools and CommunitiesJake RileyJoey Pigza Loses ControlJoey Pigza Swallowed the KeyJuvenile-Onset SchizophreniaKim: Empty InsideLearning and Behavior Problems in Asperger SyndromeLearning Disorders and Disorders of the Self in Children and AdolescentsLearning Outside the Lines Let Kids Be KidsLiberation's ChildrenLife As We Know ItLisa, Bright and DarkLook Me in the EyeLoserLove and SexLove That DogMad at SchoolMaking ADD WorkMaking American BoysManicMastering Anger and AggressionMaverick MindMedicating ChildrenMind FieldsMind to MindMommy I'm Still in HereMore Than a LabelMy Flesh and BloodMyths of ChildhoodNew Hope for Children and Teens with Bipolar DisorderNew Look at ADHD: Inhibition, Time, and Self-ControlNo Child Left DifferentNo Two AlikeNon-Drug Treatments for ADHDNot Much Just Chillin'NurtureShockOdd Girl OutOdd Girl Speaks OutOne Hot SecondOne in ThirteenOphelia SpeaksOphelia's MomOur Journey Through High Functioning Autism and Asperger SyndromeOut of the WoodsOvercoming ADHDOvercoming School AnxietyParenting a Child Who Has Intense EmotionsParenting Children With ADHDParenting Your Out-Of-Control TeenagerPediatric PsychopharmacologyPediatric PsychopharmacologyPediatric PsychopharmacologyPeople with HyperactivityPhobic and Anxiety Disorders in Children and AdolescentsPINSPlease Don't Label My ChildPraising Boys WellPraising Girls WellProblem Child or Quirky Kid?Problem GirlsPsychotherapy for Children and AdolescentsPsychotherapy with Children and AdolescentsPurgeRaising a Moody ChildRaising BlazeRaising Generation RxRaising Resilient ChildrenReady or Not, Here Life ComesReclaiming Our ChildrenRedressing the EmperorReducing Adolescent RiskRemembering Our ChildhoodResilience in ChildrenRethinking ADHDReweaving the Autistic TapestryRitalin is Not the Answer Action GuideRitalin NationRunning on RitalinRunning with ScissorsRutter's Child and Adolescent PsychiatrySeeing EzraSex and the American TeenagerSex, Therapy, and KidsSexting and Young PeopleSexual Teens, Sexual MediaShort Term 12Should I Medicate My Child?SmashedSnapshots of AutismSongs Without WordsSophie Spikey Has a Very Big ProblemSpeakStaying Connected to Your TeenagerStick FigureStraight Talk about Psychiatric Medications for KidsStraight Talk about Psychological Testing for KidsStraight Talk about Your Child's Mental HealthStrange SonStudent DepressionSuicidal Behavior in Children and AdolescentsSurvival Strategies for Parenting Children with Bipolar DisorderSurviving OpheliaTaking Charge of ADHD, Revised EditionTaming the Troublesome ChildTemple GrandinThe American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook Of Child And Adolescent PsychiatryThe Anti-Romantic ChildThe Bipolar ChildThe Boy Who Loved WindowsThe Boy Who Was Raised as a DogThe Buffalo TreeThe Bully Action GuideThe Bully, the Bullied, and the BystanderThe Burn JournalsThe Color of AbsenceThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-TimeThe Depressed ChildThe Developing MindThe Dragons of AutismThe Einstein SyndromeThe EpidemicThe Evolution of ChildhoodThe Explosive ChildThe Eyes of van GoghThe Fasting GirlThe Field of the DogsThe Flight of a DoveThe Hidden Gifts of the Introverted ChildThe Horse BoyThe Identity TrapThe Inner World of a Suicidal YouthThe Inside Story on Teen GirlsThe Kindness of StrangersThe Last Normal ChildThe Little MonsterThe Medicated ChildThe Myth of LazinessThe New Gay TeenagerThe Nurture AssumptionThe OASIS Guide to Asperger SyndromeThe Other ParentThe Perversion of YouthThe Philosophy of AutismThe Psychoanalytic Study of the ChildThe Real Truth About Teens and SexThe Ride TogetherThe Rise and Fall of the American TeenagerThe Science of ADHDThe Sex Lives of TeenagersThe Survival Guide for Kids With LD*The Unhappy ChildThen Again, Maybe I Won'tTherapy with ChildrenThings I Have to Tell YouThings Tom LikesThrough the Glass WallThumbsuckerTotally WiredTouching Spirit BearTrauma in the Lives of ChildrenTreating ADHD and Comorbid DisordersTreatment of Childhood DisordersTwistedUnder the Wolf, Under the DogUnhappy TeenagersUnstrange MindsWastedWe've Got IssuesWeather Reports from the Autism FrontWhat about the KidsWhat in the World Are Your Kids Doing Online?What Works for Whom?What Would Joey Do?What's Happening to My Body? Book for BoysWhat's Happening to My Body? Book for GirlsWhat's Happening to Tom?When Nothing Matters AnymoreWhen Your Child Has an Eating DisorderWhose America?Why Don't Students Like SchoolWill's ChoiceWinnicott On the ChildWorried All the TimeYou Hear MeYoung Minds in Social WorldsYoung People and Mental HealthYour Child, Bully or Victim?
One of the greatest challenges to communicating with people with autism is our preconceived notions and stereotypes about autism. This is the issue at hand in Communication Issues in Autism and Asperger Syndrome: Do we speak the same language? by Olga Bogdashina. In her new book, Bogdashina argues that we should adjust our communicative styles with people with autism to meet them halfway. Using arguments from cognitive science, developmental psychology and linguistics, she illustrates the ways in which autistic development can be different from non-autistic development. Suggesting that their language(s) may be fundamentally different from ours, the key to communication is in understanding their modes of communication. In addition to theoretical arguments, her book is enriched by first-person accounts of events and anecdotes from individuals with autism. By hearing their perspectives, we are made aware of how easily and often their behaviors are misinterpreted. Consequently, instances of so-called 'misbehaving' are reinterpreted as reactions to sensory overload or anxiety. From this we gain both a deeper understanding and the information necessary to reconsider and plan our interactions and expectations.
In the three parts of her book, Bogdashina identifies theories of language and language acquisition, the characteristics of language learning styles in autism, and proposed strategies to enhance communication. Her book provides information and valuable suggestions for educators and parents in accessible language. She also fills the book with excellent illustrations of the linguistic and communicative disparity through first hand elucidations by people with autism. Bogdashina's argument is reasonable and backed with theoretical and experiential arguments for the case that we should attempt to learn their language(s) so that we can meet them on common ground. At times, however, her arguments could be strengthened by the development of and a commitment to a singular theory of language.
In the first section, Bogdashina introduces different theories of language and cognitive growth, describing the advantages and disadvantages of each of them. Given the variety of ways in which sensory information is processed, it is reasonable to assume, she argues, that language and thinking are structurally different in people with autism (and not even universal within the autistic community). In the second section, she elaborates on the concept of different learning styles for people with autism. She also 'translates' different typically autistic linguistic behaviors (like echolalic language and literalness) into functional and non-functional linguistic practices with real antecedents and -sometimes- intentionality. In this way, she makes some seemingly meaningless behaviors meaningful and explains them in terms of their sources and intended outcomes. This humanizes these behaviors by illustrating their functionality to these individuals, and challenging their apparent randomness. In the third section, she examines strategies to enhance communication in autism, and offers both support and critique for various methods including Applied Behavioral Therapy, Floor-time, PECs (picture exchange communication), Social Stories and so forth. Here she describes how the effectiveness of different therapies will often be determined by the child's sensory profile, thus arguing that sensory profiles are a necessary precursor to any therapeutic or learning program. This reinforces her arguments from parts one and two of the book.
Bogdashina makes strong arguments advocating a reconceptualization of our expectations of people with autism and their abilities. Moreover, she illustrates and critiques several stereotypes about the strengths and weaknesses of people with autism (for example, the ubiquity of savants or visual thinkers, neither of which is accurate). This is where the impact of first-hand accounts really becomes apparent. Rather than giving a voice to people with autism, Bogdashina lets them speak for themselves. This is both powerful and empowering, as it forces us to confront our limited understanding of autism and prevents us from superimposing our beliefs and expectations on the members of their community. The very notion of an autistic community (rather than the unfortunate victims of a disability) challenges our understanding of autism.
Bogdashina's book does make an important contribution to the literature; however, her argument for a separate language is hampered by an underdeveloped theory of language. She provides clear and useful summaries of the different theories of language, including nativist, social pragmatic and behaviorist perspectives. She also illustrates the strengths and weaknesses of each theory, suggesting that none of them is adequate. Bogdashina does not suggest an alternative theory of language and language acquisition, and this weakens her overall thesis -- that people with autism speak a fundamentally different language than ours. Given the absence of a theory of language, it is not clear how autistic language is different from non-autistic language. Moreover, if language is different among members of the autistic community (different from us and even different from each other), then we are compelled to accept that either language is different between members of the 'typically developing' community, or that we all input and process sensory information in the exact same way. Consequently, a formal theory of language would be needed to fully explore her argument and what implications follow from it.
Bogdashina challenges our understanding of autism and what the autistic community needs from us. Rather than insisting that they meet us on our terms, she asserts that we should be ready to respect and meet theirs. No longer relying solely on our interpretations of their needs, this notion is reinforced by their own requests. This is certainly the strength of Bogdashina's book, which is hindered by an underdeveloped theory of language as a whole. Perhaps that made her book too ambitious (for a theory of language may be a book on its own), but it is worth dealing with that obstacle for the sake of the benefits of gaining a better understanding of autism, and the beliefs and desires of people with autism. Clearly written in approachable language, Bogdashina's book is certainly suitable for parents, educators and students, while still being penetrating enough for an academic audience as well.
© 2007Shereen Hassanein
Shereen Hassanein is currently finishing her PhD in philosophy at York University in Toronto in philosophy of mind and philosophy of language. She is also currently doing research in language acquisition and autism research at the Milton and Ethel Harris Research Initiative.