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What is Idiosyncratic Speech? – Autism Parenting Journal

People with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have a large range of talents when it arrives to speech and language techniques. Significant functioning people today may well be beautifully fluent, some others battle, and some may well continue to be nonverbal and communicate by way of other solutions. 

For several children with ASD, a hold off in language growth is a person of the very first signs that they have a developmental disorder. Struggles with verbal interaction may result from speech issues (trouble saying or forming words properly), language challenges (trouble utilizing phrases in coherent sentences), or the two. 

Quite often, difficulties with social conversation go outside of just verbal—a kid may be unable to grasp the this means of overall body language and bodily gestures, like pointing at an item. 

Typically-establishing children will seek out social interactions with mother and father and other people today, letting them to the natural way expand in their language techniques. Autistic children, on the other hand, really don’t tend to engage with some others as readily even at an early age, major to deficits in their social conversation abilities.

When talking, autistic youngsters may well mix up pronouns, have a flat tone of voice, go over repetitive topics, misunderstand slang and sarcasm, use pedantic speech (speech that is overly formal for the context), use echolalia (repeating points they’ve listened to from other folks or in a movie), and additional.

A further typical language attribute for men and women with ASD is idiosyncratic speech. Some sets of conditions for an autism analysis, these kinds of as the Autism Diagnostic Observation Plan, involve it as a symptom of the ailment. The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Handbook, Fifth Version (DSM-5) also lists “idiosyncratic phrases” less than “repetitive patterns of behavior” that likely stage to autism spectrum ailments.

What is idiosyncratic speech?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines an idiosyncrasy as an “individualizing attribute or quality”. Dependent on this definition, it is uncomplicated to see how “idiosyncratic speech” got its title, due to the fact a child’s use of this language usually will come from his/her specific experiences. 

When we’re speaking about spoken language, idiosyncrasies are when a person uses regular terms or phrases in an irregular way—the term will be a real phrase in the speaker’s native language, but it won’t essentially be connected with what ever he/she is referring to. The real meaning will only make sense to the speaker, and maybe all those close to him/her. 

For example, let us say an autistic child’s Aunt Mary usually requires him to a specific park. In his mind, he inbound links Aunt Mary with that park, so he may possibly say: “Aunt Mary” as a substitute of “I want to go to the park.” Most other folks would not understand the relationship, but it’s the child’s attempt at communication.

Small children who use idiosyncrasies may possibly also be vulnerable to making use of neologisms, or designed-up terms that aren’t section of their indigenous language. 

A study by Joanne Volden and Catherine Lord (1991) located that youngsters with autism spectrum condition use neologisms and idiosyncrasies much more frequently than neurotypical young children or mentally handicapped young ones. They “were additional very likely to use phrases inappropriately that had no phonological or semantic similarity to the supposed English word”. 

Nobody appreciates the exact motive powering these discrepancies, or even driving autism itself. But researcher Avital Haramy, who co-authored a analyze on autism in 2015, proposed that: “From a young age, the normal, standard person’s brain networks get molded by intense interaction with persons and the mutual environmental things … It is probable that in ASD, as interactions with the ecosystem are disrupted, every single [person with ASD] develops a a lot more uniquely individualistic mind firm pattern.”

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Language and conversation skills impacted by idiosyncrasy

Idiosyncrasy and other language deficits normally located in folks with autism impact one’s pragmatic language. This is the potential to use speech to communicate with many others in an suitable way. There are 3 main capabilities linked with pragmatic language:

Utilizing language for various contexts

  • Changing vocabulary and tone centered on the audience—speaking to a mate versus a new acquaintance, talking to a toddler versus a high schooler, and so on.
  • Changing vocabulary and tone dependent on the situation—giving a presentation at college compared to keeping a discussion at a birthday party, discussing a little something non-public at property vs . in public, and so on.

Making use of language for diverse needs

  • Realizing the typical, well mannered means to greet many others, say superior-bye, request anything, and many others.

Following social interaction procedures

  • Letting the other individuals speak
  • Looking at nonverbal cues, physique language, and gestures
  • Keeping on subject and introducing relevant new ones
  • Not spending as well considerably time on one’s possess passions

All of these abilities are important to having a relaxed social interaction, but they do not come by natural means to children with autism.

Idiosyncrasy influences each of these categories. A youngster who reveals this habits won’t understand that not every person has the exact same understanding he/she has—like in the preceding instance, he does not get that not everybody is aware of Aunt Mary constantly usually takes him to the park. Or he may have just not grasped the good sentence structure for conveying what he means. This boundaries his means to keep a conversation and get his stage throughout.

Can idiosyncrasy be taken care of?

It is common for kids with ASD to acquire speech treatment to deal with idiosyncrasy and other challenges. Speech-language pathologists can assistance determine what capabilities a baby demands to do the job on and kind a tactic to increase his/her verbal communication.

Therapy measures for your baby will rely on how sophisticated his/her growth is and what is at the rear of his/her idiosyncrasies in speech. Therapists generally use video games, roleplay, and one-on-a single discussion to work on a variety of skills. 

Preferably, speech therapy need to be accessed early in the language growth phase to increase the probabilities of excellent results afterwards. Retain an eye on your child’s development and advise his/her medical doctor of any feasible delay or impairment so you can make a decision if interventions are desired. Of class, even if your baby is more mature and outdoors the usual language improvement phase, it’s not as well late to obtain cure. 

Speech treatment can be helpful even for children with significant working autism who primarily speak well, since the treatment normally addresses the nonverbal parts of conversation, much too.

What to search for in a speech therapist

In your look for for a speech-language pathologist, the features you appear for will naturally rely on your child’s desires. But in typical, some of the most vital standards are:

  • The therapist should really be expert with autistic patients, particularly autistic small children
  • The therapist need to be capable to create a excellent rapport with your little one and interact him/her in the discovering process
  • The therapist should continue to keep you, the mother or father, associated and informed so you know how to support your kid at home

When treatment does not function

Some autistic men and women in no way get completely practical language, and which is okay. There are other methods to talk, these types of as:

  • Typing
  • Composing
  • Indication language
  • Photograph exchange conversation devices
  • Speech output units that enjoy pre-recorded terms

As a father or mother, it is purely natural to grieve if your little one hardly ever reaches the speech milestones you anticipated. But all forms of conversation are legitimate and none are lesser than verbal interaction, just distinctive.


Social conversation is an important element of daily life. Most of us simply cannot get by way of the day without having holding a conversation, irrespective of whether it is with mates, family, or coworkers. If feasible, it is significant for children with autism to work on their language techniques so they can reach their prospective and create much better relationships with others.

Idiosyncrasy is a tough trouble that may perhaps be disheartening each for the child who needs to be comprehended and these who want to fully grasp. Fortunately, progress in this space is feasible. 

No matter what the final result of your child’s speech journey is, he/she is a distinctive personal with his/her have skills, strengths, and a distinctive connection with his/her biggest advocate—you.


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Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. (2015). Pragmatic Language. Speech-Language Pathology.…/details-language-pdf-pragmatic-lan-6.pdf

Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Idiosyncrasy. In dictionary. Retrieved June 17, 2021, from

Discipline, E. I. (2021, April 12). Echolalia Autism: Why Does My Kid Repeat Me? Autism Parenting Journal.

Lachman, M. (2021, April 12). Added benefits of Speech Treatment for Small children with Autism. Autism Parenting Journal. 

Prud’hommeaux, E., van Santen, J. P.H., Black, L. M., & Roark, B. (2010, Could). Automatic Detection of Idiosyncratic Phrase Use in Autism Spectrum Disorders. Worldwide Meeting for Autism Exploration 2010.

Stephan, T. (2016). Guidelines for Deciding upon a Speech-Language Pathologist. The Hanen Middle. articles/Selecting-a-Speech-Language-Pathologist.aspx

Volden, J., & Lord, C. (1991). Neologisms and idiosyncratic language in autistic speakers. Journal of Autism and Developmental Ailments, 21, 109-130.