Today, the practicum students at my site had a training. Officially titled, "The Behavior Communication Connection" and subtitled "The Nature of the Connection", it was essentially a lecture on the differences between modern ABA-based techniques (notably including PBS techniques) and the crap that some idiots practice and have historically practiced.
This isn't to say that modern ABA-based techniques are perfect. It's to say that they're better than the ethics-challenged stupidity that some people equate with them. Now if only we could get people to stop practicing said ethics-challenged stupidity...
In any case, other than one slide, it was a fairly decent presentation... although I will admit that I made my fair share of points and am evaluating it with those incorporated.
That one slide was entitled, "Why do Students with Autism have Difficulty Communicating?" Leaving aside the person-first formulation (and why is it that the people promoting this sort of language never ask the people with disabilities themselves? It's not like we've been keeping our opinions secret...), the answer was quite revealing.
Specifically, it stated: "Children with autism do not have the skills of typically developing children that assist in the acquisition of communication skills."
The most revealing part of this is the fact that it proceeded to give ten examples. Of them, six were false and four were drastic oversimplifications.
Autistic kids lack the ability to maintain attention? ... yeah. Right. This is even funnier given that the next item states that autistic kids lack the ability to shift attention. The contradiction should be pretty obvious.
Autistic kids lack the ability to take the perspective of others? Disregarding the fact that this is a skill which neurotypical kids "lack" relative to adults, my experience has been that autistic kids are quite good at taking the perspective... of other autistic kids. The fact that they can't take the perspective of non-autistic kids is something that's a given, but neurotypical kids can't take the perspective of autistic kids, either. Issues of this sort happen cross-culturally, too. I mean... people from other cultures blow the tiniest things out of proportion. What the heck is the big deal with accidentally showing someone else the bottom of your shoe?
Yes, that's sarcasm.
The next item, that autistic kids have overselective attention, is so rediculously oversimplified that it's not even funny. I've commented on this before, but autistic sensory systems process data in ways that are completely different from the ways that non-autistic sensory systems do so. Of bloody course they're going to find different things salient!
This is followed by a statement that autistic children lack in the ability to use new experiences to relate to previous experiences. Umm... no.
The slide continues along these veins for a while. I would, however, like to answer the question from my own experience.
Why do autistic students have difficulty communicating?
Because the people they're trying to communicate with ignore them when they try.