THE DO’S AND DONT’S WHEN TALKING TO ADULTS WITH AUTISM
Have you ever had a conversation with an autistic person in the past? If yes, did it go well as far as your memory can recall, or did something you say offended the person you were talking to? If your first social encounter with an autistic person end up terribly wrong, you may already have decided not to engage in small talks with autistic individuals again. You might want to reconsider reaching this kind of conclusion because it’s not really that difficult speaking to adults with autism if you just know what to be mindful of the next time you converse with people that have Autism Spectrum Disorder.
On the other hand, if you haven’t met and talked to an autistic person yet and you are still unsure of what not to bring up or speak about, there is no reason to be absurdly anxious because the following pointers will help you become a better conversationalist around autistic individuals. All you need is to be understanding and genuine with your intentions when trying to reach out to them in social engagements.
Understanding the Other Party
Communication is a two-way process, and it can only be achieved when both parties understand each other. In the same context, you must learn to understand people with autism first, before you can talk to them without having to worry about hurting their feelings or pushing them to an awkward situation. Why do they behave that way? What could they be thinking? These are just some of the most important questions that you need to find answers in order to understand autistic individuals.
Autism is a neurological disorder that affects an individual in many different ways. As a spectrum disorder, autistic persons may appear and behave differently from one another. Some may be very articulate, but would only talk about things that interest them and refuse to be shut down in a conversation. Others are more withdrawn and would prefer not talking to anybody else unless necessary, because of speech challenges like the tendency to repeat certain phrases. A common characteristic of autism is the difficulty of decoding body language and social cues from people around them, hence sarcasm and jokes may not be easily comprehended by people with autism. Starting and prolonging small talks, as well as connecting with other people’s views are traits are missing in autistic individuals.
Because of these traits, autistic people become easy targets of bullying and ridicule by the society in which they try to fit in. It isn’t rare to know an autistic individual who has little to no friends because of their difficulty in finding peers and connecting to them. Their reputation is often clouded by wrong perceptions which don’t help improve their place in the community. Even in the workplace, conflicts arise because of the normal people’s unwillingness to extend a hand and understand people with autism.
Tips in Conversing with Autistic Adults
Make Your Statements Clear and Concise. There is no need to make autistic people more confused than they already are just from trying to read body language, eye contact, and mood in conversations. As much as possible, try to refrain from using jargons, figures of speech, sarcasm, and slangs that are not totally universal in scope and meaning. Make your sentences and phrases as concise as you can in order to directly deliver the thought that you want the autistic person to process and understand.
Avoid Paraphrasing or Repeating Your Statements. It’s not necessary to paraphrase your comments or statements even with the intent to make it easier for the autistic person to understand. The autistic person will most likely comprehend what you are saying if you say it once unless they will ask you to say it again. It’s because they need an uninterrupted flow of information to decode important details, while remembering them may be easier. Repeating your statement may hinder their comprehension, while paraphrasing can completely confuse them as to which state to process.
Keep Your Cool and Be Forgiving. Barging in the middle of a conversation would seem pretty normal for people with autism. So if your autistic peer tries to speak while you are still talking, it is much better to keep your cool and not get offended easily. In the same regard, autistic persons also have the tendency to immediately answer your question even when you’re still not done talking when they already have an idea as to what you’re trying to ask. On the other hand, there are instances when it would take a while for the autistic person to answer, so never try to skip and overlap the conversation without waiting for their response. Whenever these situations arise, you have to keep calm and let them proceed with the talking.
Try not to Act Condescendingly. There are several situations when autistic people would see your actions or behaviours as condescending in a way hence, they’d be offended if you are not careful enough. A good example is to try to say the obvious even though the autistic person already gets the thought the first time around. Terms of endearment such as “honey”, “sweetheart” and the likes should not be used to call autistic individuals, as well as giving complimentary descriptions like “cute” or “charming”.
Dwell on the Autistic Person’s Topic of Interest. There is no sense in talking about topics that interest you while your autistic peer doesn’t feel the same enthusiasm or excitement. Autistic individuals prefer to talk about their interests rather than other people’s hence, avoid making your conversation boring or unappealing to them.
Treat Autistic People With Respect. Although it would seem that autistic individuals don’t want to engage in conversations, it is entirely wrong to just disregard their presence in the social gathering and act like you don’t see them at all. Autistic individuals would know if you disrespect them by treating them like a child in conversations, so as much as possible, address them as adults like any of your peer.