Language delay, often with a good degree of catch-up.

In the description of PDA is states that most children who have PDA will have been delayed in some aspect of their early speech and language development, it states that this may be part of their passivity and they then experience a good degree of catch up.

I do have some issue with this particular trait. It would make sense that some children may refuse to speak because it’s seen as a demand, or that their general behaviour is so passive that they just don’t speak much. There is some basis to this, but I think they are also forgetting that PDA is an autistic sub-type, and many autistics have language delays. In fact, there are some PDAers who were non-verbal and are still non-verbal even as adults. Language delay can have may different reasons behind it. It’s also important to keep in mind selective mutism which renders the individual physically unable to speak in some/many/all situations.

I have heard many parents asking about this particular trait of language delay. For what seems the vast majority of PDA (now that more and more PDAers are being recognised) the trait of language delay with a good degree of catch up isn’t relative to them. Indeed, many were in fact early speakers who have since not learnt to stop talking. It seems this trait isn’t as accurate as first thought.

That’s not to say it doesn’t fit any PDAer, no doubt there are many who were delayed with speech and experienced a sudden catch up, but it is in no way a common trait. When it comes to the verbal expression of language, PDAers are just as diverse as autistics. I think it’s may be safe to say that language delay is more an autism trait as opposed to a PDA one. Of course it is still important to note.

We must also look into the language itself, how it is used by the PDAer and why. There are so many precocious children who speak big words at an early age, or who speak in unusual ways, sounding more like an adult than the child that they are. There are some who use echolalia to communicate. Some script and it’s only when you are in the same situations over and over again with the child that you start to notice how repetitive their communication is. Some also use certain words frequently even when they don’t fit the conversation. Some use sounds and noises to communicate rather than actual words. Some remain mute. It’s all very diverse.

I do think this trait should be removed or replaced by a more accurate and common one. Or maybe reworded. Language delay as a result of passivity is one that can be displayed in non-PDA autistics so it’s not exclusive to PDAers. Perhaps once PDA becomes a recognised diagnosis in the diagnostic manual (it had better, and soon) they can remove or reword this trait so that there aren’t people left wondering whether PDA fits because the language delay trait isn’t accurate for their child.

3 thoughts on “Language delay, often with a good degree of catch-up.”

  1. Yes, this is the only criterion that I say ‘not me’ to. Was an early speaker, then moved countries and went selectively mute from the stress, then after a year started speaking again, fluently in three languages. Though I do remember a huge part of not speaking was fear of not speaking the new languages (English and Irish) perfectly. Its also why although I can read and write in French and German, and understand when spoken to, I cannot speak them. Too much perfectionism.
    Glad its not just me who feels this trait may not fit well.

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