Oct. 23, 2008 -- Question: What are some important things to consider when examining expressive language delay for the purpose of diagnosing autism, and are they different for a diagnosis of Asperger syndrome?
Answer: Patients with autistic disorder have marked impairment in language functioning, so they may not develop language at all, or it may be very delayed, or they have significant problems using language to interact with other people, in a pragmatic sense, to influence the world or in social interactions. On the other hand, patients with Asperger syndrome may have some strengths, for example, in terms of language ability. So they may have excellent vocabulary; they might even have good written skills. But they may use language in a very idiosyncratic way.
They may have difficulty carrying on a conversation, for example, or their narrow, restricted interests or repetitive behaviors may cause a very repetitive use of language. So, for example, they may talk incessantly about certain topics that they're fascinated with, and that can be off-putting in terms of their social interactions.