How to Ask an Autistic Person a Question Without Scaring Us
Recently, I wrote about how questions make autistic people nervous. Today, I’d like to offer some tips on how to ask an autistic person without eliciting our fight or flight response. (I mean, you still might, but this should help.)
OK, here goes:
1) Make sure we are not engrossed in a task, especially if it’s a “special interest” task or one that involves intense body coordination like doing the dishes.
2) Be sure you have our attention. We don’t have to be looking right at your face, but be sure we’ve expressed that we are ready to listen to you.
3) Preface your question. “I’d like to ask you something, but it’s nothing serious.” Or, “I need to ask you a serious question. Is this a good time?”
4) Think for a minute before you ask the question. Do you really need or want to know, or are you just asking to be polite? If it’s the latter, no reason to bother. Lack of questions does not offend us. 😉
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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:
5) Ask one question at a time! Rapid-fire questions are the quickest way to get our guard up and completely lose us as an audience.
6) Unless it’s an emergency, allow us to take time to think about and respond to your question.
7) Ask specific questions. “How are you?” is just too vague. Try, “Did you enjoy (insert name of movie) you went to see last night?”
8) Write your questions down. Email us or text us when you have more than one question. This gives us time to read and digest the information, so we can answer your questions properly and thoroughly.
Also, and this is very important, don’t ever feel obligated or pressured to ask us questions just to say hello. Just say “Hello” or, even better, send us a meme or photo about something we are interested in. It will likely garner a much better response.
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