The impact of both SLI and autism canpersist past childhood. In severe cases, individuals with autism may neverdevelop verbal speech or social cues, while those with less severe cases canlive relatively normal and independent lives. It is important to remember thewide range of abilities and characteristics of children with autism. No twochildren act or behave the same way and therefore should be evaluated on acase-by-case basis. Individuals with SLI will most likely struggle with readingand learning, as language is the underlying foundation for proficiency in theseskills. Sometimes, language delays may spontaneously resolve (Bishop &Edmundson, 1987) but if problems persist beyond a certain age, these challengescan hinder academic performance and affect individuals well into adulthood withregards to behavioral problems, low self-esteem or obtaining higher education (Redmond& Rice, 2002).
Both children with autism and children with SLI have also beenreported to experience continued difficulty with social interaction, as theygrow older. The general impact of any of these disorders of course depends onage of diagnosis/early intervention, severity of the disorder and the supportthe child receives. SLI and autism are both highly heritable,developmental disorders that range in symptoms depending on severity of impairment.Both disorders share common features of language and social behavior, but thereare differences in the aspects of language that are affected. Children with SLIoften experience structural language deficits more related to syntax andphonology issues, while children with autism have higher order languagedifficulties, especially in pragmatics, despite appropriate articulation andphonology. Children either SLI or autism also develop similar behaviors insocial skills and interaction with peers. Overlapping symptomology may be seen withboth disorders, which can sometimes make clinical assessment a bit tricky.
However, a diagnosis of autism must be completely ruled out before SLI can bediagnosed, as the criteria for SLI does not allow autism to co-occur (Kerr,2016). However, a child withautism can be diagnosed with co-occurring language impairment. Currently, thereis research being done to decipher whether autism and SLI share a commonetiology and whether SLI may be a form of autism.
Until there is more clear-cutevidence, clinical assessment should be carried out based on needs that arespecific to each child, as both disorders correspond to a continuum of a widevariety of symptoms.