Oct. 23, 2008 -- Question: What are common differences in the way a person on the autism spectrum might be delayed in understanding language or find it difficult to take part in conversations?
Answer: There's great variation in terms of the verbal difficulties that autistic individuals have. Certainly, patients with autism have problems with expressive language and receptive language. Clearly, they have problems using language to interact socially. Clearly, there are real difficulties with conversation, and they don't really understand what the role of conversation is. So they may use a very literal response to a question but have difficulty maintaining a conversation. And clearly, patients with autism have difficulties with abstract or symbolic use of language -- so more complex and more abstract concepts, really -- [people with autism] have a real difficulty in terms of understanding that type of language and expressing that type of communication.