There are around 700,000 people with diagnosed Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in the UK, according to 2011 census figures. A key diagnostic feature in ASD are difficulties in social interactions and conversations, social-emotional responses and relationships. The authors of this paper explain that development and refinement of conversation skills is an important intervention target for people with ASD. They present three intervention approaches, namely: pragmatic language; social skills and peer support. Firstly, pragmatic language approaches address difficulties in topic management, turn-taking, monitoring awareness and repair of conversation breakdowns as well as modulation of loudness, prosody and non-verbal communication. The speech and language therapist explains or models the approach and also how and why the listener’s perspective should be considered. In comparison, social skills approaches are very similar, but intervention focuses on a particular social task or situation. There are numerous manualised and published social skills programmes and several systematic reviews. Finally, peer support approaches involve the classmates of people with ASD. These can be divided into those that explicitly teach students strategies to interact with peers with ASD (peer-mediated interventions) and those that create environmental arrangements or activities encouraging interactions between students with and without ASD (peer support strategies). The most comprehensive management approaches combine all the above approaches. Ensuring children with and without ASD learn to interact, communicate and appreciate one another’s skills and points of view will be of benefit to both groups. Not only in their current environments, but for their future lives as they learn to work and socialise in a diverse society where empathy and understanding maximises their educational, occupational and social opportunities. 

Let’s talk: review of conversation intervention approaches for school-aged children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder.
Timler GR.
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Anna Volkmer

UCL, London, UK.

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