Autism and Deafness: Guide

Joyce Sewell-Rutter and Stephanie Dawson | View as single page | Feedback/Impact


This is a complex area and there is little research available to suggest a ‘best’ mode of communication.  As is the case with deaf children, a range of communication modes are likely.  The choice will be determined by a range of factors:

  • deafness levels
  • parental preference
  • child’s attitude to wearing amplification equipment to access receptive language
  • opportunity for cochlear implantation
  • communicative intent
  • availability of BSL sign
  • school placement and existing mode eg Makaton
  • PECS     Picture Exchange Communication System
  • PODD    Pragmatic Organisation Dynamic Display
  • AAC      Alternative and Augmentative Communication

In some instances several modes will be tried and abandoned; the tensions are:  “How long do I continue?”; “Should I use them all?”

Genuine communication demands interaction and taking contingent turns in the conversation.  Sometimes an autistic child does not understand what language or sound is for and will be ‘echolalic’ - repeating words and phrases out of context.