Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 June 2012
This chapter is intended to situate clinical discourse analysis in terms of relevant linguistic and non-linguistic fields and to orient readers to the developmental and degenerative disorders discussed. Sections 2.2 and 2.3 briefly sketch diagnostic criteria, epidemiological information, current treatment options and potential associations with neurophysiology in each area. Section 2.4 focuses on the theoretical background and sources for clinical discourse analysis. These include conversation analysis, ethnographic and interactional sociolinguistics, functional linguistic discourse analysis, cognitive and philosophical pragmatics, and formal (generative) linguistic models. Section 2.5 addresses the roles of neurology, neuropsychology, psychiatry and neuroimaging as essential in developing understanding of relationships between discourse behaviours and neurological disorders. Finally, section 2.6 addresses the role of normative discourse patterns in evaluating descriptions of the discourse of clinical groups.
Autism spectrum disorders
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is an umbrella term for a continuum of neurodevelopmental disorders, the causes of which are unknown. ASD manifests during infancy and is estimated to affect one in every 165 children (Fombonne et al. 2006). The first account of autism was published by Leo Kanner (1943). Since that time, an expansion in diagnostic criteria has led to the inclusion of more diagnostic categories in the autism spectrum. ASD now includes autism, Asperger syndrome and pervasive developmental disorders not otherwise specified.
ASDs affect more than one domain of functioning and are generally characterized by three core deficits:
1) impairments in socialization and interaction (e.g. lack of shared attention, lack of peer relationships).
2) impaired language and communication (delay or lack of functional speech, difficulties with conversation and pragmatics),