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Autism. 2004 Jun;8(2):197-218.

Making sense in a fragmentary world: communication in people with autism and learning disability.

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  • 1University of Leiden, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Childcare, and Special Education, The Netherlands.


The communicative capabilities of people with autism are impaired and limited in significant ways. The problems are characterized by a lack of intentionality and symbol formation, which indicates that the deviant development of communication in autism is associated with a specific cognitive style. The central coherence theory can offer insight into the specific communication problems of people with autism, since a weaker drive for central coherence leads to problems in sense-making and, consequently, in communication. In the case of the comorbidity of autism and learning disability, the communication problems are aggravated. The crucial point is the determination of the level of sense-making, taking this comorbidity into account. Assessment and intervention have to be tuned to individual needs, in order to increase the communicative competence of people with autism and learning disability.

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