I thought id put together some easy tips that you to improve your communication with a person with Autism.
Improved communication is key if you want to understand another persons emotions and desires. With improved communication autistic people can be better able to know what you expect of them and leads to an improved quality of life for everyone involved.
Being misunderstood, if left unchecked long term can breed a lack of confidence and lead to negative behaviours and even depression in later life.
That said, These tips are from my perspective as a person with Autism gained from my own life experience. Every person is different and as a parent I use individual approaches with each autistic person I meet.
So, These are 9 things I do that have helped my two previously pre-verbal eldest boys connect and reduced communication anxieties in my youngest son.
- Take your time, don’t rush things. note that Autistic people have a very different style of communicating compared to the average neurotypical person. But I guarantee you that people on the spectrum want you to understand them as much as you want them to understand you. So be conscious that different communication styles do not mean autistic people are unintelligent.
So if you want to improve your communication techniques with autistic people you need to become open to varied approaches. Each individual will respond better to techniques that are appropriate to them.
The speed that an ASD person can process verbal communication varies wildly. Processing speed is influenced by factors such as who they are talking to, the environment they are in and often just by emotional state.
As a man on the spectrum and a dad of three autistic children I know that it can take longer for us to accurately process things like facial expressions, body language and emotions. So be wise to the fact that in general we don’t think like you but we do communicate in a different style.
Believe me, Its worth it.
Try not to rush things. Be patient, take your time, because this will allow you to figure out how to make the best out of your techniques and develop the ones that work.
As a kid I used to sense the pressure of being rushed, so i would pretend I understood a task. Other times I would pretended to listen to instructions. I wanted to be seen as an equal by peers rather than a target for abuse. Unfortunately it often meant that I had to figure out how to complete a task myself or just give up. So take your time, take steps not strides. It will be worth it.
- If you are taking your time but still struggling try Using direct or shorter sentences. when my twin sons were pre-verbal we started using three word sentences. I careful not to offload too much information than they can process. That rarely ends the way you would like it to.
Some people on the spectrum will nod and give a yes or no at the right time. Others will give you the impression that they are listening. But in reality they are not.
When a person on the spectrum doesn’t understand the point of a task they tend to see no logical point. Until they get it concentration isn’t automatic, it is manual. Because of this, the instructor must try make the task the most interesting the ASD person has going on right now. The setting and environmental factors will always be competing for attention.
So, if you want to make your role is easier use straight forward language and where possible shorter sentence.
furthermore, If you think it needs it, include breaks because attention is key if you want genuine understanding.
- Sometimes the setting for your chat can be the barrier to effective communication. for myself, It can be difficult to hold a genuine conversation in a busy environment like a a crowed restaurant or a bar. When im with a group of friends I can sometimes find it near impossible to filter out background noises. My go to tactic tends to be listening for the inflection at the end of a sentence and just responding with a “yes” a “no” or whatever I think might be appropriate. Sometimes people find it funny when I say yes to something I should have said no to. This is something I am always conscious of when I meet a new autistic person.
For me, all background and primary noises all enter my brain at the same volume. This means that selecting one noise as a primary focus requires a lot of manual concentration. sometimes, I just give up and drift off into dolly daydream-land
Therefore, if the autistic person you are caring for is becoming visibly anxious, restless and if it is a hectic environment you could either RAISE YOUR VOICE A BIT this will help them. You could even ask if they would like to go somewhere quieter. They will be grateful.
Giving people on the spectrum the space to process things in a way that they understand can help behaviours to settle and improve life experience for everyone involved in their lives. The next steps in life are always important. My youngest son is aged six, he started state school two years ago.
When it was my turn to drop him off at school I found the cacophony of chitter chatter intense, a tsunami of the sounds of parents and kids pushing passed like waves through gates and doors. it was pretty intense.
We were getting negative feedback his behavior at school. Unwanted behaviours began at the start of the day and could continue up until lunchtime. Every morning he would hit, scratch and bite kids that were just minding their own business and point blank refuse to take part in learning activities.
The school came to realize that excluding him from class activities didn’t bother him as he would sit quietly. I felt he was dealing with a perceived chaotic start to the school day.
At a meeting I suggested that his behaviors were his reaction to sensory overload, that his preference for being left alone to sit quietly was his way of healing and recovering.
I suggested we try something new out and the school agreed to trial him starting 15 minutes after the school day start. This way when he arrived, the parents had left, jackets were on hooks and the kids were sat calmly at their workstations.
The very first day with this new routine the school reported that they had a different child, willing to learn, helpful and willing to try new things, the environment was more appropriate. The setting is always important but they way a messege is put across can improve comprehension.
4. if you are struggling to get someone to understand a message try saying it in a few different ways for example
“Get me a cup”
“Can you get me a cup”
“Could you help me by passing me that cup”
Two of my children have additional learning difficulties. Its important to talk in a way that can be understood without leaving someone feeling anxious, upset or inadequate. So let them know it is a communication problem not their inability.
Any Approach that includes negative lasting affects are counter-productive in the long-term, so try different approaches until you find one that works. So be patient, rephrase and repeat.
- Try Using direct or shorter sentences if you are trying to help an autistic person understand your message, Bombarding someone that could has difficulties processing verbal information at the same speed you are dishing it out can cause more negative results than positives. In my own experience I used to pretend I understood or even listened to what I assumed was garbage and went on to figure out a task myself.
Some people on the spectrum will nod and give a yes or no at the right time. As far as you are concerned everything is going in, but in reality they got overwhelmed and switched off.
Causes for this can be to avoid humiliation to be accepted in a group. This issue can foster negative behaviours, where the add person will refuse group activities partially to avoid being overwhelmed and partially to avoid shame.
So break things down, if your message looks like a political manifesto do it manageable steps, use literal, straight forward and where possible shorter sentences. If its an instructional thing don’t be afraid to include breaks, as keeping attention as well as interest is key.
These are things I do with my kids, they have helped them to reduce communication anxieties and improved communication abilities. I started doing this type of thing when my eldest were five.
- pictures and imfographs can really make communication easier. This is because many of us on the spectrum think in pictures, because of this, pictures, schedules and or diagrams can be extremely effective. In my home this is something we do a lot of especially when Planning activities. letting each kid know what chores they have or what we are having for supper can relieve a lot of anxiety, not just in the kids but with me too. Anything that reduces constant repetitive questions is good.
This offers them a sense of autonomy and has helped to improve their self confidence.
- Using pauses in conversations this can allow someone masking the time to process what you are saying. Pauses give time to process and respond in an appropriate manner. sometimes if an autistic person is not able to fully grasp a conversation this can lead them to loose total interest and end in neither of you gaining anything positive from the interaction. So try asking them to repeat key parts of your chat back to you, this way you will have at least a partial confirmation that something has gone in.
8.) There are occasions when people on the spectrum will react to incidents in a way that is interpreted as “socially inappropriate”. It’s worth noting that for many autistic people it can take a long time to understand the minute and complex rules of social interaction. Until an ASD individual learns why a behavior is wrong they won’t be able to understand how it negatively affected the people involved involved.
As a dad, I know how hard it is to not become frustrated with this type of thing but as a husband of a neurotypical wife I’m aware drive her bonkers.
Usually I am completely oblivious after commuting a social faux pas. So from the autistic persons perspective, if they do something wrong unawares, avoid getting angry with them.
Screaming and shouting wont have the intended affect because if they don’t know what the problem is, your screaming or shouting will become the problem.
It must be noted that an Autistic persons negative behaviour should not be excused simply because they are on the spectrum, mitigating circumstances and triggering events should always be weighed up
- some autistic people have a real issue with personal space or physical contact. This could be things like a dislike of shaking hands and obsession with hugging strangers or a hatred of being patted on the shoulder. it might be a good idea to just ask them or their main care giver how they like to be greeted and treated. Grinding on an autistic persons personal ‘social niceties’ can bring communication to a halt. So Don’t take offense if you get “no handshake” or “high fives are pointless” as a reply, its just not part of their autistic culture. It doesn’t mean it wont ever be, it could also mean, that just right then and there… they don’t don’t want to shake a hand.
Every autistic person is someone with unlimited potential. Very often barriers to progression are focused around communication difficulties.
Therefore by improving communication methods you can improve potential outcomes and the life experience of everyone involved.