Semantics refers to the meaning of words. Despite the finding that most children and teens with Asperger’s Disorder have advanced verbal skills, most also have trouble with semantics, including:
• Pedantic speech
• Literal interpretation
• Difficulty understanding sarcasm
• Difficulty understanding figures of speech
• Misinterpretation of teasing as intentional insults
• Difficulty understanding humor and jokes
• Inability to understand metaphors
• Inability to understand double entendres
Some Asperger’s Disorder children speak with a confusing mix of pedantic speech that is overly precise, highly formal, and too advanced for most of their peers to understand. They may speak more like a brilliant adult than a child or adolescent, leading some to refer to Asperger’s Disorder as “the little professor” syndrome. Asperger’s Disorder children have no fear of correcting adults who use words they find to be less-than-perfect for the sentence.
In contrast to their advanced verbal expression, Asperger’s Disorder children and teens are often confused by language. They often have a poor sense of humor and do not understand teasing or sarcasm. They interpret things literally and therefore also misunderstand figures of speech. Hearing “if looks could kill” may result in the child asking if looks can really kill someone.