Does Your Autistic Loved One Appear to Talk Down to You?

So, in a recent post, we covered the absolute necessity of being specific when asking an autistic person to do something.

Today, I’d like to answer a common question neurotypicals often ask of autistics when WE are trying to teach YOU something.

“Why do you talk to me like I’m stupid?”

Good question. We don’t…not intentionally, anyway.

OK, let me explain.

When an autistic person asks a question or teaches something to a neurotypical person, we are very specific and give lots of detail. We speak slowly and clearly and give you everything you need to know in a step-by-step process.

– Jaime A. Heidel

Is this because we think you’re dumb? No! Not at all. It’s because WE are speaking to you the way we need YOU to speak to US!

To an autistic person, clear and detailed instruction is absolutely imperative to our absorbing, learning, and translating the information given to us, so we can complete the task exactly as requested.

When we appear to “over-explain”, it’s because we have not yet realized that you don’t need all that detail. We don’t know how you think since we’ve only lived in our own brains!

We have no idea what to tell you and what to leave out. We don’t know what’s “common sense” and what isn’t. We don’t infer or understand inference naturally. We have to study it like another language.

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The best way to improve communication with your autistic loved one is to understand how your autistic loved one’s mind works! Intentions, motivations, and personal expressions (facial expressions or lack thereof, body language, etc.), are often quite different in autistic people than they are in neurotypical people.

Experience a better understanding of your autistic loved one by reading books about life from an autistic perspective as well as stories that feature autistic characters. You’ll have so many “Ah ha!” moments and start seeing your autistic loved one in a different light (and you’ll have a better understanding of their behaviors, which you may have been misinterpreting up until now).

Books I recommend for a better understanding of your autistic loved one:


Also, and this can further the miscommunication issue, we may have a flat tone or speak too loudly or directly to what is comfortable to you, which can enhance the feeling that you’re being condescended to when we have absolutely no intention of it all.

So, the next time you have a conversation with an autistic person who is trying to teach you something or explain something to you, expect lots and lots of details.

If you don’t need certain details, you can try to let us know, but being interrupted can be very disconcerting and derailing for some people on the spectrum, so the conversation might temporarily end. In most cases, it can be picked up later, though.

Remember, we are literal and direct. If we truly thought you were dumb, we’d just say it outright, no beating around the bush. 😉 *wink*

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1 Response

  1. October 19, 2020

    […] to help children understand things, they mistakenly believe I’m trying to talk to them “like they’re stupid”. Not at all. Again, this is just how I communicate, clarify, and connect. No hidden […]

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