4 Tips For Communicating With Autism That Work For All Ages
It’s almost certain you will find that communicating with autism is difficult. You might not have noticed struggling to communicate or doing things repetitively, both of which are the key indicators of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). In many cases, however, those symptoms can be more severe. When that’s the case, it can be difficult to know how to communicate with someone who has autism.
By definition, people with ASD have a hard time in social situations. Many people with ASD spend a lot of time developing their social skills. However, meeting them halfway and being empathetic to their situation can often make the difference between awkwardness and a satisfying exchange.
Autism Spectrum Disorders can have a wide range of severities. There are a few habits you can form that will make things easier, however, whatever the situation.
Enhancing Communication Skills To Talk With Autistic People By
- Remaining patient
- Listening carefully
- Speaking simply and directly
- Recognizing struggles with communication
Each of those points is important in different ways
How To Communicate With People Who Have Autism Spectrum Disorders
Patience Is Key
This is a rule worth remembering in any social situation. Many people are torn between wanting to be social and a fear of embarrassment. For people with communication disorders, that ambivalence can rise up to become paralyzing anxiety. Their difficulty with communicating is often combined with unpleasant experiences in the past, reinforcing their frustrations and fears.
There is a natural tendency to assign people motives that are similar to our own. “If I said that,” you may think, “I would mean it as an insult.” Remember that people with autism spectrum disorder have a difficult time understanding the nuances of a social situation and often can’t read body language. Sarcasm and humor can also be difficult for them.
The only antidote to that is to replace those unhappy memories with happy ones. The only way to do that is to meet the person facing communication challenges with understanding and patience. Speaking at all may be difficult for them.
Giving them the benefit of the doubt is the best thing you can do. Giving them time and space to contribute to the conversation is also vital.
Difficulties in communication can come in a couple of varieties. People who have autism may have a hard time with social interaction in everyday life. It may also simply be difficult to speak at all. Social situations do genuinely require more effort and energy when you’re struggling with ASD.
Being respectful of that is important. If they’ve chosen to put in that effort to talk with you, be appreciative of that fact. Additionally, people with autism often don’t do well with small talk but may have a few things that they are deeply interested in. If you can draw them out on those topics, you’ll often find they are very knowledgeable and enthusiastic, and they will appreciate you sharing in those things.
Listening carefully is also really important for another reason. You will have a better understanding of the social dynamics of the situation that the person with ASD is facing. If there is a misunderstanding, you’ll probably be the first to spot it.
Since people with autism often have a hard time with humor or sarcasm, it’s often best to be direct. We tend to think of this as being more or less the same as being rude. However, it’s possible to be straightforward and still be sensitive, simply by paying attention, having patience, and being honest.
It’s important to be straightforward in two different ways.
Be Literal And Clear
Enhancing spoken communication by speaking in simple declarative sentences. This is particularly true if you don’t know whether the person has autism or not. It’s not quite the same thing as being serious all the time. It does mean that ambiguous statements or saying things you don’t really mean, even in joking, are not great ideas. There is a huge potential for misunderstandings. Instead of that, use clear and short verbal means to process information and improve communication.
Give Respectful Feedback
Many autistic people work hard to improve their social skills and social interactions. Also, as we mentioned above, you may be the first to spot a misunderstanding. The best way for you to help is to explain the issue patiently and without anger.
You don’t need to make a big deal of it. Just saying something like, “You know, I actually meant something else”, or “I know you weren’t trying to be hurtful, but that could have been taken the wrong way”. You’re not creating drama, just making sure everyone is on the same page. It is important to pay attention to sound patterns when talking to autistic people as well.
Recognize When They Are Struggling
No one should be trying to diagnose strangers, or even people you know, with ASD. However, there are some clues that you might notice that can indicate someone is struggling with social cues as well as communicative skills. Some are specific to autism, while others are just signs of having an off day. Recognizing a few signs can help make everyone’s life a little less fraught.
A few autism spectrum responses to look for include:
- Avoiding eye contact
- Difficulty understanding emotions (including their own)
- Flapping arms, spinning, or repetitive motions
- Difficulty or delay of speech
- Repeating phrases
- Short attention span
How To Communicate With Children Who Have Autism Spectrum Disorder
Everything we discussed above is also true of communicating with children who have ASD. However, there are some special tips that should be kept in mind when a person with autism is younger. When trying to communicate with a child who has autism, remember to be persistent while remaining patient, encourage them to be physically active, and help them find healthy ways of expressing themselves.
Be Patient, But Persistent
Children have had less time to develop good habits and find ways of managing their developmental disorders. You just have to cut autistic children a little more slack and allow them to make mistakes so they can be corrected and learn.
Let them know mistakes are acceptable while remaining consistent with your corrections or support planning is crucial.
Encourage Regular Physical Activity
Specific activities for children who are autistic are essential. All kids are like those super bouncy, little balls. They are set to start ricocheting off the walls at any moment. This can be particularly true of the autistic child. They may need to express themselves physically or just burn off some frustration to reduce personal space.
Let them do that. It may be tempting to try to get them to sit still and be quiet. Instead, try to redirect that energy in healthy and helpful ways.
Help Autistic Children Find Healthy Methods Of Expression
They may get frustrated when trying to have a conversation regardless of spoken language or nonverbal communication. Speaking may just be physically difficult. That doesn’t mean they can’t communicate their needs, it may just require some collaboration and understanding. It’s particularly important to help them build language skills of communicating that aren’t aggressive.
At this point, it may have become clear that this is essentially just a list of good manners and healthy habits in communication. There’s nothing you can point to here that isn’t a good idea generally, in all of life. That should not be surprising, as many children who have ASD will face all of the same struggles anyone else does, just to a greater degree.
Perhaps that’s the most helpful thing to remember. Everyone faces struggles throughout their lives. Think of a time when you were upset or struggling, and were met with understanding rather than judgment. It is a simple act of patience that can have a powerful, positive effect on another person. Another method to express their emotions is using a visual or picture schedule. This is an augmentative and alternative communication that can help them to improve facial expressions as well as an autism communication support tool.