Autism and Language Barriers

Greetings Earthlings! ๐Ÿ™‚

This week I’d like to discuss the joys of navigating language barriers on the spectrum.

Language barriers can be hard enough to deal with at the best of times, but throw in the glorious social awkwardness and mortification that autism brings and you’re in for a real treat!

Over the years, I’ve visited many non-English speaking/non-tourist regions in Europe, and my encounters have been a right barrel of laughs (in hindsight- not so much at the time ๐Ÿ˜› ) given that I have only a few remaining French phrases from my schooldays! There really is nothing quite like going to a pharmacist and trying to communicate the massive insect bite on your eye without words! ๐Ÿ™ˆ

Granted, Google translate and similar services have made it considerably easier to communicate than it would have been 15 years ago, but even so, things can still get wildly lost in translation. I’ve found ordering food to be somewhat of an ordeal with language barriers (even with translate in hand), a task already made difficult in English by my various food aversions!

I once had an interesting experience in an Italian pizzeria while trying to order a portion of chips (as I don’t eat pizza). I looked up the translation with an accompanying picture, showed it to the server and waited for my food, delighted that I had successfully navigated the transaction without a word of Italian. When my food came out however…it was a pizza…with chips on top!? Talk about a crime against humanity! I tried to communicate that the order was wrong buuut I awkwardly got stuck with the pizza… and with every other restaurant closed for the afternoon, I had no choice but to pick what few chips I could off the top that were not contaminated by the cheese! ๐Ÿ˜›

Language barriers are a veritable nightmare- but here are a few tips for navigating this minefield:

Do your research– before heading on a trip, try to plan out the best places to eat, tourist attractions, shops etc. You can see menus ahead of time and translate them (as roaming charges can make the internet less accessible than it may be at home for Google Translate) or find English speaking restaurants to offset any awkward situations. Pro tip– go old school and download and print off maps for key sites/restaurants on your trip. If you find the Google Maps arrow as confusing as I do, this may be prove very useful!

Use Google Translate audio to text translation- this is a useful feature where you speak and the phone translates to the desired language, which can be really helpful when you’re in a flap. If it doesn’t work, you get the added bonus of a great laugh out of it’s misinterpretations! ๐Ÿ˜‚

Request menus in your native tongue– a restaurant may not always have one, but there’s no harm in asking, even if you feel awkward doing so. Pro tip– just point at the menu item if you’re unsure of the translation. Don’t make a tit of yourself and risk ordering the wrong thing when you don’t have to ๐Ÿ˜‰

Ask for help/don’t go anywhere without your translator– determined to be independent and not burden anyone, my pharmacy experience above would have been much easier if I had asked my translator friend to accompany me! ๐Ÿ™ˆ

Hope you enjoyed this post dear Earthlings! ๐Ÿ™‚

Have a lovely weekend!

Aoife

Autism- Atypical Language Use

Greetings Earthlings! ๐Ÿ™‚

This week I’d just like to briefly talk about the use of atypical or unusual language in autism.

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Now you may have noticed in previous blogs that I don’t always use the most simplistic of language to express myself- I have always been fond of big words, and have a tendency to regurgitate these randomly in casual conversation.

One infamous incident was the time that I told my Maths teacher that I intended to drop to ordinary level Maths after I had been “ruminating” on it for the previous few days- my family have never let that one go! ๐Ÿ˜› ๐Ÿ˜‚ย Similarly, my supervisor nearly shot me for including the word “multitudinous” in my first publication! Needless to say it was pulled during edits ๐Ÿ˜›

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I was most interested to learn after my diagnosis that my verbosity (couldn’t help myself choosing this word! ๐Ÿ˜‚)ย ย is not uncommon among autists, particularly among those with Asperger’s syndrome. In fact the tendency to use more formalized language was first observed during Kanner’s original observations of autism back in the 1940’s and is included on the common list of diagnostic criteria.

So is there a scientific explanation as to why many autists tend towards atypical language?

Studies of individuals with damage to the right hemisphere of the brain have been known to have a proclivity for verbose language. Moreover, brain imaging studies of autists have shown that there is a tendency towards “rightward asymmetry” (a tendency for certain brain functions to be more specialized in the right side of the brain) in language areas versus their neurotypical peers. Taken together, alterations to the right hemisphere of the brain may explain why some autists prefer a more formalized use of language when communicating.

Alternatively you could just enjoy using big words as I do- like I always say, why use a smaller word when there are so many glorious synonyms floating around in the back of my brain!ย  ๐Ÿ˜› ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Hope you enjoyed this post dear Earthlings! ๐Ÿ™‚

Until next time!

Aoife

Autism and Echolalia

Greetings Earthlings! ๐Ÿ™‚

This week we’re going to talk about something that effects approximately 75% of autists- Echolalia.

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I know, I know, it’s a mouthful- but echolalia is actually quite simple:

Echolaliaย is the meaningless repetition of noises, words or phrases immediately after their occurrence (although sometimes this can be delayed).

Derived from Greekย echo, โ€œto repeat,โ€ andย laliรก,ย meaning โ€œtalkโ€ or โ€œspeech,โ€ Echolalia is an automatic and unintentional behaviour.ย ย In most cases Echolalia is used in an attempt to communicate, practice or even learn language. In fact, Echolalia isย part of normal development- every child experiences Echolalia when they learn a spoken language.

However, whilst “normal”, this behaviour can persist for longer in autists.

But why might this be?

Psychologically speaking, Echolalia is considered by some to simply be a repetitive or self-stimulatory behaviourย in autists (as some experience this behaviour only when they are stressed), however, the general school of thought is that it is a communicative behaviour. Imitative behaviour is an essential part of social learning. As autists struggle so much socially, this imitative behaviour can act as a tool to help improve their social skills.

I’ve certainly exhibited such imitative behaviour during my formative years. For example, I somehow got it into my head that in my final year of primary school I needed to practice my swearing so that I would better be able to fit in when I made the jump to secondary school!ย ๐Ÿ˜ฌ๐Ÿ™ˆ Wasn’t especially successful- sure I could swear like a sailor, buuuuuut it didn’t do much to improve my social skills or status (but I suppose I sounded a little less like a walking thesaurus for a change! ๐Ÿ˜› ).

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On the biological side of things, much of the physiology of Echolalia remains to be explored, however, one study indicates that the ITGB3 gene (which carries the information for ฮฒ3 integrin- a cell membrane protein that will interact with other proteins to trigger a number of biochemical reactions in our cells) seems to link autism and echolalia.

There we have it now Earthlings I hope you enjoyed this post! ๐Ÿ™‚

Have a lovely weekend everyone! ๐Ÿ˜€

Aoife

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