Original Research

Communication strategies used by adolescents with autism spectrum disorder and health professionals during treatment

Monica Araujo, Munyane Mophosho, Sharon Moonsamy
African Journal of Disability | Vol 11 | a811 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajod.v11i0.811 | © 2022 Monica Araujo, Munyane Mophosho, Sharon Moonsamy | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 12 October 2020 | Published: 31 March 2022

About the author(s)

Monica Araujo, Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology, Faculty of Humanities, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Munyane Mophosho, Department of Speech Therapy and Audiology, Faculty of Humanities, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Sharon Moonsamy, Department of Speech Therapy and Audiology, Faculty of Humanities, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa


Background: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder, which affects social communicative capabilities. The research study has shown that ASD studies are focused on young children, excluding adolescents and adults: and it is understudied in the context of South Africa.

Objective: This study examined the interactional communication strategies of adolescents with ASD and health professionals during different treatment consultations to identify the interactional styles and communication strategies utilised by adolescents with ASD and their respective healthcare professionals in a variety of scenarios in order to generate management strategies for future healthcare professional communication training.

Method: A multi-case study design with a qualitative research approach has been used. Four adolescents with a moderate form of ASD and four health practitioners were interviewed. Participants were chosen by purpose and snowball sampling. Semi-structured, open-ended interviews were used for health professionals to collect information on the various interaction types and communication methods used, as well as their interpretations of these methods. Conversely, adapted face-to-face interviews were used to collect similar knowledge from adolescents themselves. The findings were qualitatively analysed on a case-by-case and cross-case basis by thematic analysis techniques.

Results: The findings indicated that ASD adolescents have interaction types that influence intervention to various degrees. In comparison to motor therapies such as occupational therapy and physiotherapy, interaction types have a greater impact on psychiatry and psychology, which depend mainly on verbal communication. Intuitively, to promote contact with these teens, all health practitioners changed their own interaction styles. They used techniques of clarification and repair. The therapists shared the intention to learn a range of successful ways to strengthen future experiences with ASD between themselves and adolescents.

Conclusion: The findings indicate that practitioners can benefit from altering their interaction styles, and that approaches for promoting successful interactions and in establishing rapport could be shared with other professionals in the future.


ASD; adolescents; health professionals; interactional styles; communication breakdowns; effective interactional strategies


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Crossref Citations

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