How To Talk To Someone Who Has Autism

A little kindness, understanding and patience can go a long way… 

People who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often find communicating with others difficult. They may have trouble making eye contact or take sarcasm and puns literally. They can miss social cues and may appear uninterested, which can make holding a conversation difficult, clumsy and awkward. On the flip side, some people with autism will enjoy talking about a subject they’re into and will gladly chat for hours and hours. These traits all make it very tricky for people with autism to connect and have meaningful interactions with others and affects their ability to make and maintain friendships. This can all make life very lonely for people with ASD.  

These tips can help you break through the wall of autism and build better conversations and relationships: 

  • Remember that people with ASD don’t always pick up on nonverbal communications. So, they may miss your friendly smile when you say ‘hello’. They often take things literally, too, so it’s important to say exactly what you mean when interacting with someone who has ASD.  
  • People with ASD can find conversations overwhelming and stressful. Their mind can go blank when someone talks to them, and they struggle to form words and responses. Give them time and space to reply and try not to overburden them with more than one topic at a time. Patience is key. 
  • Try not to take things personally. People with ASD can be blunt or have trouble engaging with you, despite your best efforts. Take a deep breath and try again or switch the subject to see if this helps.  
  • Take time to listen. Give them time to express their views or emotions and really listen to what they’re saying. People with ASD can be very passionate about topics they’re particularly interested in and will enjoy talking about it at length. Showing that you’re listening lets them know that you care. 
  • Be aware. Look out for clues that indicate that the person is feeling anxious or uncomfortable. It’s OK to ask if they need anything or would prefer to stop the conversation.  
  • Most of all, be kind. Even if you feel uncomfortable or awkward, it’s important to be nice. Your kindness can make a real difference to a person with ASD. Because people with ASD often miss social cues, they may respond in a way that’s inappropriate or offensive. Know that this is not deliberate or malicious and that it’s OK to kindly point out if the person has said something that hurts your feelings or is inappropriate. They would much rather know if they’ve said something wrong so they can put things right rather than have you walk away and avoid them in future.  

To read more about autism and other hidden disabilities, click here.


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