Learning difficulties form a critical research area for many analysts and scholars in childhood development and education. These challenges make it hard for the affected individuals to receive and comprehend new instructions. Specialists focus on evidence-based approaches to empower and guide these learners to achieve positive results and eventually lead better lives as adults. Different developmental disorders are known to result in learning disabilities and delayed language acquisition. Autism is one of the conditions capable of affecting the outcomes and experiences of children in their educational and social life. A proper understanding of the issues associated with autism can help parents, clinicians, and teachers support the affected young individuals and provide personalized instructions and guidelines.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a common developmental condition associated with reduced abilities in social interaction, communication, speech, and repetitive behavior. Affected children will exhibit most of these symptoms differently depending on the severity of their ASD. According to Murphy (2017), each individual with autism tends to display unique weaknesses and abilities. Such attributes are critical since they can help professionals determine the most appropriate strategies to help and empower these individuals (Colvin et al., 2020). In serious cases, the affected young children would require continuous empowerment and support. This means that some of the children with the condition might be independent and require little care.
This spectrum disorder remains a major challenge affecting children and adults in Scotland. For instance, a report by the Public Health Information for Scotland (ScotPHO) indicated that around 0.6 percent of adults aged from 16 to 64 years had ASD (Public Health Information for Scotland, 2021). For children aged 15 years and below, the rate of ASD in Scotland is around 1.9 percent (Public Health Information for Scotland, 2021). This understanding helps the relevant authorities implement proper mechanisms to empower these citizens and ensure that they do not suffer the problems of health inequalities. Most of the available learning institutions receive proper resources and tools to meet the needs of the affected students.
Effects on the Child and Language Acquisition
The effects of ASD in children have been analyzed and documented properly within the past few decades. In most cases, a number of symptoms would tend to be associated with this kind of condition. For instance, Carotenuto et al. (2019) indicate that the individuals might develop additional gastrointestinal challenges or disorders. Another possible effect is the presence of sleep disorders or seizures (Colvin et al., 2020). In serious cases, the affected young children might record these challenges: attention deficiency, anxiety, confusion, and depression. Murphy (2017) observed that most of these disorders associated with ASD became more pronounced at the age of 2-3 years. However, experts recommend assessment of the condition to begin after children attain the age of 18 months (Colvin et al., 2020). This practice is critical since the stage at which ASD is identified could have significant implications on the eventual outcomes of the targeted individual.
Children affected by this developmental condition will encounter numerous challenges when developing the relevant language skills and abilities. The achievement of this key competence will depend on the child’s social development, cause of the disorder, and intellectual attributes. In advanced cases, the individuals would not communicate properly with others through the application of speech (Colvin et al., 2020). They might even find it hard to speak fluently. In some other scenarios, the learners might be able to acquire rich vocabularies and apply the skills to interact with others or focus on certain issues.
In some cases, children with ASD might experience challenges with word rhythms and the ability to form complete sentences. Sometimes such individuals can be unable to identify, learn, or interpret body languages (Colvin et al., 2020). The use of vocal tones could make it hard for them to comprehend the presented information. Consequently, these issues affect the child’s ability to engage, listen to, and interact with his or her age-mates.
Some children with autism might display a number of language problems depending on the nature of the condition. For example, some would experience or report poor conversation and nonverbal abilities (Colvin et al., 2020). Others will develop language skills unevenly or take longer to read or comprehend the presented message. Repetitive language could also become a common challenge in some of the affected children. In serious conditions, children with autism could be characterized by narrow or reduced interests in learning new language competencies (Hoff, 2008). Despite these key issues, some of the children with ASD could show moderate competencies or extreme abilities in specific fields, such as music or mathematics (Colvin et al., 2020). This critical observation becomes a good start for identifying the best support and empowerment for the child.
Etiology for Autism
The primary cause of autism remains a mystery to researchers. However, experts agree that various forces intersect to create enabling conditions for its development. For instance, Gaus (2019) indicates that genetics could be involved in a number of ways towards the etiology of ASD. Some of the common genetic issues associated with it include fragile X syndrome and Rett syndrome (Fuentes et al., 2021). Mutation could also be a leading trigger or cause of this condition (Colvin et al., 2020). Past researchers have shed more light on the power of environmental factors and their ability to trigger ASD, such as medications, exposure to pollutants, and presence of diseases during pregnancy (Murphy, 2007). Despite the nature of these propositions, research still continues to learn more about the possible causes of this condition.
Based on these findings, some attributes have been observed to increase the risk of developing ASD. For example, Fuller and Kaiser (2020) believe that a family history characterized by ASD could dictate the possibility of getting a child with the same condition. The presence of diseases affecting the child could also expose them to this disorder. Having a preterm baby could also be directly linked to the development of ASD. Additionally, Gaus (2019) revealed that male babies had higher chances of developing this condition in comparison with girls. Future studies in ASD will help shed more light and make it easier for professionals to support the affected individuals.
Theory of Mind
Several theories have emerged in the recent past to help explain the nature of autism and its development. The first one, the Theory of Mind (ToM), is attributable to the investigations by Simon Boron-Cohen. According to this nature-based hypothesis, people with ToM have the capability to identify their mental capacities of others and even themselves. Proponents of the model acknowledge that the ToM is the problematic issue in learners with ASD. Affected children, according to ToM, would perform poorly in some tasks and learning processes that would be normal for others (Livingston et al., 2019). This framework goes further to reveal that the affected children might be unable to interpret messages, explain emerging behaviors, or separate fiction from fact.
The model encourages professionals to rely on the use of visuals, role modeling and repetitive initiatives to empower ASD children. Behaviors need proper monitoring since the child might not be fully aware of his or her actions. The nature-based theory has, therefore, gained recognition in the field of autism. Some of its key strengths include the ability to help people attribute the states of minds for themselves and those of others (Colvin et al., 2020). It is also a foundational model for guiding human social relationships and interactions. The theory also guides professionals to interpret and even predict other people’s behaviors (Fuller and Kaiser, 2020). These attributes make the framework applicable in autism and providing the relevant support to most of the affected children.
On the other hand, the model presents some weaknesses that compel investigators to present other frameworks. The outstanding one is that it does not offer the best support to learners with ASD. Specifically, such individuals are incapable of learning about other people’s behaviors (National Autistic Society, 2022). Their thoughts and beliefs would also be inadequate. The effect of this outcome is that the children might be unable to ascribe the presented motive or predict their colleagues and educators’ behaviors (Fuentes et al., 2021). The theory is also unidirectional since only parents and teachers appear to be the ones with ToM and capable of influencing autistic children.
Despite these issues, this theory remains powerful in explaining the compromised acquisition of language. For instance, the absence of ToM makes it hard for the learners to identify the emerging instructions or words during conversations. Their interpretations would be impaired while being unable to separate the reality from fiction (Þráinsson, 2012). The child will record increased deficiencies in communication and find it hard to interpret other people’s beliefs or emotions. They will find it hard to complete tasks associated with mind reading (Livingston et al., 2019). Consequently, they will take longer to acquire and become proficient in a specific language depending on the severity of their ASD.
Executive Functioning Disorder
This model has its roots in the works and researches of Pennington and Ozonoff. The emerging theory is nurture-based and it indicates that children with ASD would struggle when exposed to tasks that are complex in nature. Scholars acknowledge that the affected individuals tend to struggle when there is a need for the brain to process data or presented information simultaneously (Carotenuto et al., 2019). The model has been found to explain the challenges affecting children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The theory goes further to reveal that most of affected children could be unable to organize items and fail to plan head.
The provision of an effective learning environment and continued support is critical to meet the child’s developmental needs. This attribute helps identify the unique strengths associated with it. For instance, it guides professionals to promote behaviors capable of supporting the realization of the intended goals. The model also provides fundamental attributes that can help more children. For example, teachers can rely on self-monitoring, planning, and time management to empower the children (Carotenuto et al., 2019). The primary weakness with this theory is that it ignores some of the external forces that could disorient learners’ abilities to process information and complete abstract tasks.
When it comes to the acquisition of language, this theory presents powerful hypothesis to describe the processes involved. The child with ASD would be unable to process the available information. Since language required abstract concepts, the individual will have difficulties engaging in reasoning and preparing for follow-up activities (Carotenuto et al., 2019). The provision of additional language skills or concepts could worsen the situation and affect the entire process. These aspects, therefore, support this theory since it has the potential to describe how learners with autism find it hard to learn or acquire language skills.
Children with autism require proper provisions to enable them to learn language more efficiently depending on the nature of their conditions. Specialists in the classroom should consider the best approaches to create an enabling environment. Educators need to provide the relevant support mechanisms ranging from guidance to the presence of the right equipment (Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland, 2019). Skilled teachers will establish a routine that can increase their chances of developing specific competencies in language development. The environment needs to be friendly and supported using interesting activities (Sherifi, 2018). When introducing changes or transitions, continuous support would be necessary to deliver desirable outcomes.
Experts promote the concept of a multidisciplinary approach to meet the needs of children with ASD. For example, educationists can work with people who provide care and parents to empower the learner. The emerging rapport builds resilience and increases chances of acquiring new competencies. Clinicians could respond with proper treatment and support depending on the emerging symptoms. The approach goes further to promote the inclusion of personalized tools to aid in language acquisition and development. For instance, innovators have presented new apps that can help regulate behavior, model learning through the use of videos, and offer cue supports (Gaus, 2019). Sensing technologies could also help regulate and guide children’s emotions. The use of advanced software to process language could help deliver positive results in language acquisition.
Depending on the child’s challenges and abilities, experts propose the inclusion of befitting therapies to ensure that timely results are recorded. For example, Sherifi (2018) indicates that behavioral management and cognitive therapies are essential since they empower learners to improve their behaviors accordingly. Early interventions are also necessary since they allow the involved professionals to provide support continuously while addressing some of the recorded gaps. Nutritional and medical treatment regimes could help students with eating disorders. The use of school-based therapies can result in inclusive learning environments, thereby increasing the level of attention (Gaus, 2019). These elements show clearly that professionals should implement a multifaceted approach that links all possible strategies. This strategy is capable of meeting the learners’ needs and increasing chances of increased levels of language attainment.
The above discussion has presented ASD as a common developmental condition affecting many children in Scotland and across the globe. The outlined theories are capable of explaining the connection between language acquisition and ASD. They also help analyze how ASD hinders child development. The application of the outlined frameworks could result in proper mechanisms to support the affected individuals. Such beneficiaries will have higher chances of succeeding in their respective learning environments. In conclusion, educationists need to implement multifaceted approaches that can bring together different professionals to apply diverse strategies to meet the children’s needs.
Carotenuto, M. et al. (2019) ‘Executive functioning in autism spectrum disorders: a case-control study in preschool children’, Current Pediatric Research, 23(3), pp. 112-116. Web.
Colvin, M.A. et al. (2020) ‘More autism? Audit of the diagnosis in Scottish children’, Archives of Disease in Childhood, 106(2), p. 205.
Fuentes, J. et al. (2021) ‘ESCAP practice guidance for autism: a summary of evidence-based recommendations for diagnosis and treatment’, European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 30(1), pp. 961-984.
Fuller, E.A. and Kaiser, A.P. (2020) ‘The effects of early intervention on social communication outcomes for children with autism spectrum disorder: a meta-analysis’, Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 50(5), pp. 1683-1700.
Gaus, V.L. (2019) Cognitive-behavioral therapy for adults with autism spectrum disorder. 2nd edn. London: Guilford Publications.
Hoff, E. (2008) Language development. Cengage: Cengage Learning.
Livingston, L.A. et al. (2019) ‘Good social skills despite poor theory of mind: exploring compensation in autism spectrum disorder’, The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 60(1), pp. 102-110.
Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland (2019) Autism and complex care needs. Edinburgh: NPM.
Murphy, R. (2017) Autism spectrum disorder. Edinburgh: Scottish Parliament Information Centre.
National Autistic Society (2022) What is autism? Web.
Public Health Information for Scotland (2021) Mental health: autism. Web.
Sherifi, E. (2018) ‘Therapies and treatment for children with autism spectrum disorder: (case study)’, Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences, 9(6), pp. 157-164.
Þráinsson, K.Ó. (2012) Second language acquisition and autism. Web.