10 Tips for Talking to Adults on the Autism Spectrum

About 2.2 percent of the adult population in the United States has an autism spectrum condition, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that affects the learning, communication, social and problem-solving abilities of someone with the disorder. While symptoms can range from mild to severe, common signs of the condition include having trouble relating to others, having unusual sensory reactions and having trouble picking up on or expressing emotions.

Autism Spectrum Disorder is indeed a spectrum. Individuals can vary greatly in the way they present symptoms, and it is not uncommon for someone with ASD to present very similarly to a neurotypical person. However, being on the autism spectrum can pose a challenge for some adults, particularly in a school or work setting where pressure is high, change is common, and social interaction is often compulsory. It can be helpful to have an understanding of what ASD entails how to communicate most effectively with someone diagnosed with the disorder.

Here are 10 tips for talking to adults on the autism spectrum:

1. Respect their space. Adults on the autism spectrum may be very sensitive to touch or to someone intruding on their personal space bubble.
2. Be patient. Those on the autism spectrum may take some time to respond to a question or react to new information.
3. Speak literally. It may be more difficult for adults with ASD to relate to figurative speech or overly theoretical concepts.
4. Stay calm. Those with ASD may be sensitive to anxiety, raised voices, or a rushed energy.
5. Be specific. If you have a request, be direct and specific about it instead of beating around the bush. Adults on the autism spectrum may not pick up on nuance or passivity.
6. Say what you mean. Avoid the use of slang or sarcasm, which may not be processed by a person with ASD.

7. Give helpful feedback. If a person with ASD is open to feedback on the way they communicate, be kind and honest about how they could improve.
8. Ask about hobbies and interests. Those with autism spectrum disorder often have the ability to hyperfocus on a specific hobby or interest. Asking about these interests can promote connection.

9. Be understanding. Try to be compassionate and not get offended if someone with ASD does not make eye contact or ends the conversation abruptly.

10. Be consistent. Consistency is very helpful for those on the autism spectrum. If you interact regularly with an adult with ASD, set expectations for your interactions and try to remain consistent.

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