What is meant by “robotic speech” in regards to autism?

Eastside SpeechAutism

Robotic Speech Autism

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability characterized by differences in social skills and behaviours. Features of autism are observable in children who are 18 months or younger, but the condition is more reliably diagnosed at two years. Because our body language, eye contact, facial expressions and tone of voice are part of our social communication skills, some clinicians consider limited gestures or range of facial expressions, unusual eye contact, or atypical speaking patterns to be signs of autism.

In recent years, research has shown that people with ASD frequently talk with a unique speaking style. Some children with autism spectrum disorders are described as having a “sing-song” tone of voice. Sing-song speech means that the person with ASD moves their pitch up and down while talking. This voice pattern often occurs when the child parrots the speech of mum, dad, another adult, or even dialogue from TV. The act of parroting speech is called echolalia.

Other people with ASD have been described as having robotic speech. This is the opposite of sing-song speech. With robotic speech, the person on the spectrum speaks with a flat pitch or tone of voice, which may make them sound pedantic or disinterested, even when they’re not.

The speaking patterns in autism are diverse; however, researchers have noticed that people on the spectrum generally sound different from their peers. Being able to change your tone of voice to indicate different moods and emotions to your friends and family is important to successful social interaction.

It is also essential for friends and family to remember that communication is a 2-way street. If someone with autism doesn’t communicate their feelings in an expected way, check in about their emotions using alternative means, such as words or picture supports. You can ask them, “How are you feeling?” or show them an emotion scale with emojis.

Keep in mind, for some people with autism, it may be hard to describe or know how they are feeling. This may be a result of a separate condition called alexithymia.

At Eastside speech, we help many children and adults who have difficulties as a result of autism spectrum disorder or alexithymia, focusing on enhancing their communication skills and addressing communication disorders.