What can neurotypicals do to communicate better with Aspies/Auties?

Recently, I received this question from Angel:

‘Hi Xan,

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?

Autism Registry: a pilot project by Ottawa Police

If you read my blog, you are probably aware that I have a strong interest in Asperger’s Sydrome:  I am an Aspie, I am married to an Aspie, both my children are Aspies, most of my friends are, if not full-Aspies, at least ‘almost-Aspies.

Hence the interest.

Or, perhaps, obsession…

While I like to explain that Asperger’s is to Autism like ‘wearing glasses’ is to ‘being blind’, it is an Autism spectrum disorder, there is some overlap (OK – I’d have to  go on a tangent to explain this ‘right’:  let it suffice (for here) that both Autism and Asperger’s have the same ‘thing’ which affects how the brain is wired ‘differently’, but the difference is that each affects a different bit of the brain….some people have a bit of ‘re-wiring’ in both areas – thus, the overlap).  So, I am always paying attention when I hear about both…

So, I was quite interested when I heard that the Ottawa Police were doing some sort of a pilot project to do with interacting with members of our community who are Autistic or have Asperger’s Syndrome.  Thanks go to my favourite Ottawa City Councillor, Eli El-Chantiry, for getting me in touch with the people running the pilot project.

It looks excellent!

This – in a nutshell – is what it is about…

When a call comes in to the ‘911’ emergency service, the operator pulls up the info on the address where the call is coming from:

  • the address
  • map
  • other relevant info (like the much reviled gun registry, and so on)

A person who looks after an Autie or an Aspie (or the Autie/Aspie themselves) can register in this program.  When they do this, the ‘relevant information’ will include some information about the Autie/Aspie that lives there.

This can save lives!

The information can be, say, there is a small Autistic boy who fears loud noises.  If there is a fire alarm, he is likely to hide under the bed or in the closet.  Only answers to ‘Xxx’ nickname….  Touching him makes him panic.

Or, it can say something like ‘this is a group home for adult Auties.  These are their names, this is how they react to being agitated,’ and so on.

Information is power.

When emergency responders are walking into a situation where they know they will encounter a person who is not fully functional – and, the stress of emergency situations does often push ‘partially functional’ people (especially kids) into a non-functional state – they will be able to do their job better.

This Autism Registry pilot program harnesses the power of information into better helping vulnerable people in emergency situations.  Into saving live.

I liked what I learned about the program so much, I offered to help out as best I can.  And, perhaps, there may be a tiny role I can play.

One way I – and you – can help is to ‘spread the word’!

If you know someone in the City of Ottawa who would benefit from registering – tell them.

If you live outside of Ottawa, tell your police department to check out this pilot project in Ottawa.  The model is highly portable – perhaps your community would benefit from something similar!