How to Communicate with Adults with Autism?

Those who suffer from autism invariably have problems with socializing and cannot maintain proper communication with those around them. While it poses grave issues in adolescence, when the person grows up, it becomes even worse since a grown-up is expected to have become a conventional member of society.

Mind they are adults like you

Autism doesn’t mean the sufferer has stopped developing and remains the child he was. They may not be proficient at communicating, but they have to communicate just as much as you – so there’s no reason to be condescending at all. When you are with them, draw them into the conversation even if it is easier to address your remarks to their relatives or professional supporters.

Accept the way they socialize

Be ready that every autistic adult can have their own communicative system based on an unfamiliar mixture of both verbal and non-verbal interactive ways, as well as texts and other kinds of messages. People socializing with them have to be open and understanding in following their lead in communication.

Make yourself very clear and comprehensible

Metaphors, figurative meanings, elaborate language, jokes can be incomprehensible to autistic people. If you want your communication to be efficient, say exactly what you mean and don’t put frills on it. Understanding is more important than fine language.

They may need time for what you say to sink in

Many people around you can imbibe information pretty quickly, but that does not always go for the autistic ones. Never hurry them, let them finish their speech, say what they meant to say fully.

Mind they are sensory sensitive

There are quite a number of adults with autism who are extremely sensitive to sensory influences. They get overstimulated by some environments, sounds, or even textures. If you wish for a meaningful conversation be sure to create a non-abrasive environment.

Never assume anything

It’s so easy to slip into assuming things… This is really harmful on many occasions, but it can be pretty awful with autistic ones, picturing to yourself a highly mendacious image of their skills, abilities, and comprehensive powers. Keep in mind they are as unique as the next person.

Win their interest and attention

This is not an easy thing to figure out if your autistic adult is minding what you are saying, if their level of attention is being maintained. Call them by their name, look out for indications that they are listening (these indications may be various and quite subtle with some). Touch upon their major topics and high horses, let them explain you things and lecture you on what they know best… Even if they don’t.

Discover mutual meeting points

Look around for mutual interests which can bring you together – they will give you a lot of reasons to talk, do research, experiment… do such a lot of things.

Stay open, receptive, and flexible

Expect autistic grown-ups to have unexpected ways of tackling things – be able to understand and adapt them when it is needed.

There is sensory overload and meltdowns looming ahead

As life is getting faster, autistic people are apt to have meltdowns caused by an overload of sensory stimulations/irritants. Should you observe red signals, make a break, take them away, or smooth over things in whatever way offers itself.

Give enough time

If your autistic friend seems to space out in time and doesn’t appear to heed, it may be quite all right. That shouldn’t be interpreted at once that they turned their deaf ear on you – they just take their time. If they need more time, there’s no real reason why they shouldn’t.

Be sure you don’t touch them without permission

Some of these afflicted individuals shun from physical contact, breaking into their personal zone puts them off. Be sure to secure their agreement before you come close or touch them.

When you listen, avoid forming judgments

Conversing with autistic adults, it is worth your while to listen to them attentively and display enthusiasm. Let them express themselves without interruptions and take their words seriously.

So, to sum up, here are the most important things to remember when interacting with someone with autism:

Make sure you have their attention

Before speaking, call their name to draw their attention and let them know you will say something.

If you want to ask them something or tell them to do something, first ascertain that they listen to you. Learn the signs by which you can tell they pay attention to your words.

Refer to their favorite subjects and hobbies or whatever they are engaged in at the moment.

Digesting information received

When there are loads of information, it can be quite a proposition for an autistic person to sift it through. While separating it into important and less important they can reach the point of “overload” where the processing ends abruptly. In this case you will have to help them:

  • speak slowly
  • cut out unnecessary bits of information
  • single out key words, repeat and emphasize them
  • be sure to separate sentences with long pauses so they can sink in properly
  • your autistic friend may want to respond, give them an opportunity to do that
  • don’t shower them with questions
  • avoid overloading them with gestures, changing facial expressions, and other non-verbal means of communication
  • whenever you can, employ visual aids – drawings, timetables, images
  • check the environment for comfort – if it is too noisy or busy, it can influence the autistic person’s quality of information processing.

To conclude

Neurotypical individuals draw conclusions from their interlocutors’ emotional signs (which can be not very conspicuous). When you see the other fellow shows no such signs, chances are you are dealing with an autistic person.

Being aware of these pieces of advice can make you well-prepared for the occasion when you encounter an autistic person. You will be able to get your point across and help them out if they have struck information overload. Besides, once you have learned to observe your interlocutors, you may find your communication skills have improved in conversations with all kinds of people.

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