Communicating with the Autistic
I’m going to let this speak for itself.
Here is some information for communicating with me:
● If you are giving me instructions then please use explicit, precise and detailed language to convey them as you cannot rely on the possibility that we share a common framework of experiential knowledge. ‘Common sense’ is an illusion of perception i.e. not everything is as obvious as we sometimes think or believe it to be.
● I have a tendency to use clinical, academic and verbose language and will very likely communicate with you in an emotionally detached way. This is not because I have no emotions, in fact I have very strong and powerful emotions which are extremely painful and often overwhelming. The language I use is there to limit the triggering of my own emotional chaos and instability.
● Do not assume that when you use ‘humour’ in your speech that I will be able to pick it up. I will usually expect a very literal and clear form of communication and will take what you say to me seriously. I can identify humour only when I am expecting and looking for it and then not always successfully.
● I do not have an innate ability to detect social boundaries. I am liable to talk openly about almost any subject and in almost every situation. I will do my best to not be offensive but I cannot always identify when and if I am causing offence.
● If I intend to offend you I will make it perfectly clear that I do intend to offend you by telling you so.
● I cannot pick up on social cues and lack the ability to discern whether or not you are feeling upset, frustrated or offended because of something I said or did. You will have to explain that you are angry / offended / upset / hurt and what it was that I have said or done to offend you. Then I need to be instructed as to what I need to do to prevent offending you in a similar way in the future and yet not limit my ability to discuss things I need to discuss. It will take me some considerable time to learn boundaries with each individual person I meet and I will definitely not get it straight away.
● I find being in groups of people very stressful due to a large amount of sensory overload and having to work hard to negotiate my way through the social melee. I will phase out / shut down when that happens to protect myself from information overload. I do not daydream but go blank and often stare blankly when I do so until I can return to attending to what is going on around me. Being with others tires me out due to the high level of sensory overload I get. I have to expend a great deal of effort processing my interactions with others and often feel very confused and overwhelmed when in group situations. I need a lot of ‘me’ time to calm down afterwards.
● I am open and honest. I find deceit abhorrent and painful. I cannot detect such deceit in others. Therefore I find it safer not to trust anyone rather than trusting everyone as these are the only two states I have to rely on.
● I despise cruelty, harshness and ruthlessness with abhorrence both in myself and others. I will always attempt to respond in a considered and careful way to others. An exception to this could happen when I am experiencing a stress related meltdown, then I need to work on bringing myself down to a calmer state. It is best that I avoid others until that state is achieved.
● Any new information which you give me that requires me to make adjustments to my timetable or schedule will cause a severe state of panic in me. If changes are required then please try and forewarn me of the changes so I will have time to plan, adjust and rehearse those changes ahead of the change taking place. I cannot cope with spontaneous changes easily or quickly as I suffer from excessive stress when these things occur,
● I cannot tell the difference between put downs clothed as humour or put downs as abuse. A put down is a put down plain and simple. Such ‘banter’ is not understood or appreciated.
● I cannot lie without suffering severe emotional guilt and angst therefore I do not lie. I will be honest with you. Do not expect me to lie for you because I will not do so. Neither will I lie to you.
● Do not ‘speak evil’ to me about anyone or expect me to do so about you or others. I will not participate in such gossip. Nor will I put anyone else down to make myself feel better or to protect myself from scrutiny. Such behaviour is both unacceptable and abusive.
● If someone ‘speaks evil’ about me then their soul is in their own hands. Let them be judged by what they say and do.
● I do not choose to flatter others or trust flattery from others. Anything good I say about you is meant to edify you and will be sincerely meant. If you compliment me then I will not know how to interpret or discern what to do with it, so only speak sincerely to me with no hint of deception, then I will try to accept it as graciously as possible.
● If you wish to criticise something I have said or done then by all means do so without putting me down or abusing me. Be clear and explicit so that I may understand, evaluate and process the information given, use it appropriately, and learn from it.
● Do not expect me to be able to conform to all your normal social expectations and behaviours. There are some things I will not be able to do without experiencing significant distress but I will do my best to achieve appropriate social cohesion between us.
● I cannot discern the difference between flirting and friendliness therefore my default position is to interpret such behaviour as friendliness. I also cannot identify the boundary between appropriate flirting and inappropriate flirting (sexual harassment?), they are both the same to me, so I find it safer to avoid flirting in the first place. I can only flirt if I am told it is appropriate to flirt in a particular situation even then I will not always pick up on the all the subtleties of the interaction. It is better to be direct when communicating your intentions to me.
© M. S. Harvey — 12th March 2017
I got this from a post Mr. Harvey made to the G+ Aspergers Autism community. He wrote it and then revised it in the hopes others would read and come to a better understanding of how autistics work. You can contact him at +MS Harvey at G+, though I could have gotten that wrong.
In any case read, consider, and use what you have learned when dealing with an autistic person. Above all stay calm, we’re not out to hurt you.
Originally published at Mythusmage Today.