Autism not acquire language at the same rate as

is a complex neuro-developmental disorder characterized by impaired social
interaction, communication skills and restricted and repetitive behaviors (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).

Symptoms vary along a spectrum and can range from mild to severe depending on
the individual. There is no single known cause of autism, but genetic factors
are thought to play a part (Veensra-VanderWeele et al., 2004). The brain of
an individual with autism is thought to develop much differently than the
neurotypical brain, and has been found to contain an overabundance of synapses, or brain
cell connections (Bauman & Kemper, 2005).

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SLI is a
developmental language disorder diagnosed when a child does not acquire
language at the same rate as his or her peers. However, unlike autism, there is
no apparent neurological dysfunction or any other condition such as apraxia,
degenerative syndromes or hearing loss present to account for these language
delays and deficits. Like autism,
SLI is thought to have a strong genetic basis where oftentimes, parents and
siblings of the child also experience delayed onset of speech and language
related difficulties.

Both SLI and autism are recognized most
often by a parent or schoolteacher, and usually evaluated and diagnosed by a
speech and language pathologist (SLP). The SLP will typically use standardized assessment
tools and observe precursory behaviors of content, form and use (Bloom &
Lahey, 1980). To some degree, children with SLI and children with autism
demonstrate similar language features including late onset of speech, and may
not produce any words until two years of age (Leonard, 1998). Children with
either disorder also face similar social difficulties including initiating interaction
and making new friends (Fujiki et al., 1996). A core concept that may relate to
these social challenges is Theory of Mind (ToM),
which allows us to understand that other minds are different from our own.

Specifically, ToM is defined as the ability to attribute mental states of
others, such as beliefs, intentions, and perspectives to make sense of and
predict behavior. In a study done by Gillot et al. (2004) children with SLI and
children with autism performed similarly on a ToM task, at poorer levels than
typically developing children.  However, where ToM is said to be
impaired for children with autism, studies point to evidence that ToM is only
delayed for children with SLI, who may eventually catch up to these abilities
(Nilsson & de López, 2016).