How an Autistic Person Will Thank You Without Words

A close-up image of a blue eye with text that reads, "How an autistic person will thank you without words".

I can’t tell you how many times in my life I have gotten into trouble for not saying “Thank you” after receiving a gift or for somebody making something, doing something for me, or taking me somewhere.

To most people, this is considered extremely rude and ungrateful behavior. However, I WAS thanking people all the time, just not with those two words.

Unfortunately, the neurotypical people in my life did not see or understand this.

If I received a gift, for example, I might gasp and smile and laugh and say how amazing and beautiful said gift was, and then I would get completely engrossed in it until I heard a stern, “Say, ‘thank you'” that brought me crashing back to Earth to say those two words.

– Jaime A. Heidel

If someone took me out to eat or to a movie, I would smile, and laugh, and joke, and have a ton of emotional responses, but, at the end of the day, I wouldn’t even think to put those two words “Thank” and “You” in the proper order to convey my gratitude.

Why? I would always forget the words, but I never forgot to convey the feeling. Also, those two words don’t really have any significant meaning to me. They are simply two black-and-white words that lay flat on a two-dimensional surface.

How could they possibly convey such a complex emotion such as gratitude? You can’t fit that many colors, textures, and flavors into two words! It means so much more than that.

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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, when somebody does a REALLY HUGE favor for you like save your life or something, “thank you” seems almost insulting. Like, you just rescued me out of a burning building while fighting a velociraptor on the way out, and all the crying, fawning, (and perhaps making out with you, cause let’s face it, that’s hot…no pun intended) will amount to absolutely nothing if we don’t use those two words in there somewhere!

No offense to neurotypical people, but that’s a wee bit baffling to us! ðŸ¤”

So, if the autistic person in your life never says those two words unless you remind them, it’s nothing personal. We are likely already showing it to you in other ways.

Laughing, smiling, sharing our feelings with you, relaxing around you, letting our guard down, making brief eye contact, hugging you, etc., are all ways that we show our gratitude.

People often mistakenly believe that autistic people lack empathy. In fact, many of us have HYPER-empathy. Click on the photo below to learn about empathy in autistic people.

Autistic people often express emotions without words, but, since our facial expressions and body language may still not send the message, we might not realize it’s not getting across until we accidentally offend someone.

To us, our gratitude is deep and obvious, but it is not to NT people unless we say those two words, which is an unfortunate disconnect.

NTs, try to look for other signs of gratitude and enjoyment from the autistic person in your life. It’s there, it’s just in a slightly different language. ðŸ˜‰

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1 Response

  1. July 30, 2020

    […] right, or I don’t look enthusiast enough, or my vocal tone is flat, or I forget to say “Thank you” right away. Even if I truly love it, it just doesn’t come across that […]

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