How to talk to an autistic person



Recently I have begun to question my ability to communicate with people and in turn question my Autism.

For what seems like weeks now I feel like I have lost the ability to communicate how I’m feeling and have been struggling to get my point of view across.

I have not felt that whatever the answer I have been seeking to a question has been fully answered even though I have asked for a detailed reason.

Part of me felt that maybe my communicating skills were not up to scratch.

Maybe they were a little rusty?

I can think of two recent incidents where my communication skills as an Autistic person were put to the test.

In both those moments I felt that I was losing my grip or my ability to communicate.

I felt lost and it unnerved me.

I began to doubt myself.

And by that, I mean I began to see maybe for the first time that this was an area where I was or had been struggling in and that people were just in my view allowing me to just hold or engage in conversations and just let go anything that I was saying and putting it down to me being Autistic?

I hope this is making sense.

If not, I do apologise.

As an Autistic person I do struggle with holding or starting a conversation.

I even wrote a handy guide on how to talk to an Autistic person.

But that seems like my Autism and my ability to recognise the signs that maybe my communication skills have failed me.

This handy guide will help explain how to talk to us.

 Eye Contact.

 For us eye contact isn’t at the top of our list of priorities, we actually don’t like it to be honest. But as an Autistic person I can usually think, listen, and speak better when I don’t need to make eye contact. But if say you sat or walk side by side with me then you stand a better chance of having me engage with you eye wise. 

2. Avoid Touching Them Unexpectedly.

Some autistic people are highly sensitive to touch, and even a friendly pat on the back can feel alarming or painful. Some autistic people are highly sensitive to touch, and even a friendly pat on the back can feel alarming or painful.

3. Find A Peaceful Area To Hang Out.

Due to Sensory Processing Disorder, an autistic person might have trouble filtering out ambient noises and sights. Thus, it’s a good idea to hang out in a quieter place, so they can better focus on the conversation. 

4. Speak Clearly.

While some Autistic people have no barriers to typical conversation, others may not understand everything you say. Be respectful and be willing to repeat yourself if they didn’t catch what you said. Here are some difficulties they may face.

5. Be Aware Of Challenges With Reading Social Cues.

Autistic people may not understand facial expressions, body language, hidden implications, or hints—it depends on the individual. It helps to be clear about your thoughts and feelings. If they do something that’s socially tone-deaf, assume ignorance rather than malice. It’s unlikely that they mean any harm by it.

6. Know That You May Witness A Meltdown Or Shutdown.

Meltdowns occur when an autistic person can no longer suppress their pent-up stress and releases it in a fit of emotion that may resemble a breakdown or tantrum. Shutdowns look like the opposite: the person “shuts down,” becomes passive, and loses the ability to interact. In both cases, it’s important to give them patience and compassion.

7. Expect Them To Stim.

Stimming is a natural autistic behaviour that helps them stay calm, think clearly, feel good, express their feelings, and adapt to a challenging world. When your friend stims, act like there’s nothing unusual about it: ignore it and keep talking, or respond to their emotion (e.g., laughing along with them, or asking if they’re doing okay because they look distressed). They will appreciate your acceptance.

8. Try To Be Understanding.

Every Autistic person is different, and their differences may make them seem odd or even rude. It might be because of a disability that they haven’t disclosed, a co-occurring condition, or a lack of understanding of social rules. Most likely, they never intended to be rude, and feel upset and apologetic if they learn that they hurt someone’s feelings.

The first time that this presented itself to me was during a pitch meeting at work.

I was as prepared as I could be but during my exchange it felt as if my ideas were being dismissed at a very rapid pace.

I asked questions, I wanted reasons, I was looking for reassurances that my ideas were being considered.

During that week I began to question not only my ability to communicate but my ability to provide relatable content for my articles.

I did a deep dive and went on the search for new possible story ideas.

I questioned myself, I questioned everything.

I felt a failure in that moment.

The next week I had a moment that I felt had been building for some time.

I’m working with a screenwriter on a project.

I was on a video chat with them, and we were going through their notes.

I felt a build up happening, I suddenly became very aware.

I didn’t need to see the signs, I felt it in my body.

It came to ahead when I let out the loudest of sighs.

They stopped talking.

I believe because they knew something wasn’t right with me and that they felt that they needed to assess the situation unfolding between us.

If they needed to, I feel that in their mind they could say let’s stop this call and we can come back to it next week.

In that moment they allowed me to talk.

Whilst they listened.

Through a garbled rollercoaster of words which I’m hoping formed sentences I let it all out.

To their credit they didn’t interrupt and allowed me to have my moment.

I felt better afterwards.

I hadn’t realised that this was or had been happening.

But it’s clear that it had.

I’m constantly assessing my conversations as they happen in real time as in my head, I am having three-way conversations in my head whenever I interact with other work colleagues, ensuring that I am interacting with them and communicating by giving measured responses to their questions.

The only way I can describe this is imagine that you are at UN conference, you sit down, and in a booth not too far away another person a translator sits down and puts on a pair of headphones.

Then the conversation begins, and I hear it, the person with the headphones on, translates it for me and then provides me with a response.

I have to translate what that person says into what I class “Autism language”, then it’s processed into English and then I repeat my answer back thanks to the translator.

It’s a tiring process.

I feel that I will maybe need to improve on this within myself and with the aid of my OT (occupational therapist).

But for now, just allow me to do the best I can as an Autistic person.

Carry on the Conversation

As always, I can also be found on Twitter:@AutisticNickAU and on the Autistic Nick Facebook Page

Thank you for reading and I will see you next time for more thoughts from across the spectrum.


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