Recently, I received this question from Angel:
A friend of mine is writing a newspaper on Aspergers. She asked me what neurotypicals could do to communicate better with those on the autistic spectrum. What are your thoughts?’
After some thinking, this is what I answered:
Hmmmm – this is a difficult question because it presumes that all Aspies have identical communications problems – and we don’t, so that’s important to keep in mind. Still, there are patterns that we can work from.
1. Say what you mean – don’t ‘send signals’. We’ll likely not pick up on those signals and, if they are part of the message, we’ll miss it.
2. Be honest – we’ll take ‘little white lies’ at face value and believe that is your true opinion.
3. Don’t freak out when we’re honest.
4. If you have to ask questions like ‘Do you know what I mean?’, then we probably don’t.
5. When we ask for clarification, please, please, don’t just repeat the same sentence as before, as if that would somehow explain things – use different words, clarify and explain!
6. Don’t tell us how you feel, tell us what you think – we rely on intelligent people using their thoughts to override their feelings. Especially if the conversation is about issues and real-world stuff, if someone starts their sentence with ‘I feel that …’ – boom, we’ve tuned out.
7. Same thing with ‘beliefs’ – if you cannot support it with facts, then it’s just a prejudice and we’ll resent you imposing your prejudices on us. So, unless we are specifically discussing ‘beliefs’, sentences starting with ‘I believe that…’ are not only meaningless, they are annoying.
8. Don’t give us a choice unless you expect us to make a choice freely. If it’s a thinly veiled threat – we’ll simply see it as a choice you gave us and be bewildered if you get angry that we’ve actually made a choice, when you clearly offered us a choice.
I hope this is a good start!
Anybody else with some constructive advice?