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How to Interact With Someone With Autism

Cardinal Innovations Healthcare — April 12, 2021 — 2 min read
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability. It can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges.

People with ASD require different levels of support. With the right plan of care, some individuals and families who live with autism can achieve independence. They can also develop to their full potential.

To help create an inclusive environment for everyone with an ASD diagnosis, consider these recommendations.
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Talking to Someone with Autism

Don’t Assume

Don’t assume you understand someone’s struggles because you have met someone with Autism before. Each person has unique needs and preferences. Autism represents a wide spectrum of challenges and levels of functioning.

Instead:
  • Take time to listen and try to understand
  • Ask them what they need
  • Let them know you want to understand them and that you are available if they would like to talk or connect

Say What You Mean

When talking to someone with Autism, say what you mean. People with Autism can have a more difficult time understanding certain forms of communication. Sarcasm, slang, jokes, or other nuances of language are hard for them to process. Use direct, clear and concise language.

Be Patient

Be patient. If you have asked a question, wait for a response instead of assuming they did not hear or understand your question. Just like people without Autism, those on the Autism spectrum may need more time to process the information before responding.

Everyone Has Unique Communication and Support Needs

Every person with ASD diagnosis land in a different place on the spectrum. Some individuals may communicate in alternative ways, such as with a communication device. Some others may communicate in non-verbal ways. This can make the connection more challenging both for themselves and the people around them. Patience and understanding are essential to effectively support people with different levels of need.

Be Mindful of Your Words

Address individuals with Autism as you would any other adult or child, with respect. Autism does impact language, but this can look different from person to person. Just because a person may not be able to respond quickly does not mean they have not understood you.

Better Language to Connect with a Person with Autism

Say This

Not That

He/she/they have Autism He/she/they are autistic 
What kind of things do you like to do? You must be really smart (musical, good with numbers, etc.) OR, What’s your special ability?
He/she/they use different methods of communication He/she/they are non-verbal
How can I help? Or, What do you need? Just calm down!
How are you doing? You don’t look like/act you have Autism, you must be high-functioning.
Can I talk with you? Look me in the eye
Do you want to try this again or later? Do you need a break? Why can’t you focus?
I know you like to talk about X, and know a lot about it, but we are going to talk about something else for a while. Stop obsessing
Great job! Would you like a high five? Give me a hug

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