Disorders of language and social development
Speech disorders affect speech production. Language disorders affect the central processing of verbal ideas and communication. Autism is a behavioural syndrome, arising from abnormalities in central nervous system development at an early stage, probably in the fetus. Mild versions of autism, without significant language disorder or learning disability, are often referred to as 'Asperger's disorder'. Assessment of language delay or disorder must include a hearing test. A full assessment of possible autistic spectrum disorders is not expected in primary care. Suspected autism should probably be referred as soon as suspicions arise. Psychological treatment programmes can be helpful in modifying child behaviour, enabling the parents to cope with the specific difficulties presented by the child, and ensuring optimal schooling. Advice to parents can helpfully be based on the adage that it is more effective to adapt the environment around an autistic spectrum child than to attempt to change the child.