Young mother talking to her child and teaching them effective ways to communicate.

When it comes to lasting friendships or relationships, they say communication is key. This can be applied to every personal or professional relationship that we have, and it is typically taught at an early age. Here at Simple Spectrum, we tend to focus our blogs and articles on children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), but we know that this community extends beyond children, so today, we thought that we could switch gears a bit. Our children may be young now, but as they grow into adults, new challenges may present themselves and one of those may be how future generations perceive or communicate with those in the Autism community.

Today, we will discuss the importance of teaching our children how to communicate with Autistic Adults. We believe the first part of this conversation begins with educating our children and those around us on what Autism is and how it may look different from person to person.

Understanding Autism

At some point, we were all introduced to Autism. Whether it was through someone we knew or through media portrayal, there was a point in all of our lives when we learned about the neurodevelopmental disorder. For most of us, our first impression would be but a small piece in a much larger puzzle, and it would take years to understand fully…but what if we had had a better understanding of ASD when we were younger? Would we have been able to communicate more effectively with peers or adults who had been diagnosed with Autism?

Communication is vital when it comes to compassion and understanding, and the more we communicate with our children and each other, the better off we will be.

One of the first things that children and people new to ASD should understand is that it is ubiquitous for individuals with Autism to struggle with communication and social interactions.

Although Autism Spectrum Disorder is an umbrella term used to describe various symptoms, there are a few hallmark signs to look out for or be educated on when it comes to ASD. As a bit of background information or a general overview for a child learning about Autism, here are some bullet points that you may want to discuss with your child as you are teaching them how to communicate with Autistic adults or Autistic children their age. Be sure to avoid any problematic or untrue misconceptions surrounding autism stereotypes when educating your child on what Autism is.

There is a well-known quote from Dr. Stephen Shore, an autistic professor of special education at Adelphi University, that says “if you’ve met one individual with autism, you’ve met one individual with autism.” Meaning that not all individuals with Autism display all of the same signs or symptoms. However, most individuals will display at least some of these in order to meet the criteria in the DSM-5.

  • Social communication/interaction behaviors
  • Making little or inconsistent eye contact
  • Inattention, lack of listening to people
  • Rocking back and forth, flapping of arms, etc.
  • Lack of enjoyment from objects or activities being pointed out by others
  • Intense and hyper-focused interests
  • Having difficulty reading facial expressions or social cues
  • Repetitive/Restrictive Behaviors
  • Picky eating
  • Strong and detailed memory
  • Lasting interests in various topics
  • Sensory issues to loud sounds, bright lights, etc.

How to Communicate With Autistic Adults

Knowing how to communicate with Autistic Adults isn’t just for children; it could also be helpful for other adults who wish to communicate more effectively with their coworkers, friends, family members, or peers who are on the spectrum.

One of the main things to remember is that just because you are speaking to them does not mean that you are communicating properly. Children need to know that right away, but at the same time, it’s important to emphasize that Autistic adults should be treated the way any other adult might be.

Here are three other essential tips that you can teach your child on how to speak and interact respectfully with an Autistic adult:

  • Be direct when speaking to an adult with Autism. Your child might not be used to this, but frequently someone with ASD may not pick up on facial cues or verbal hints through context.
  • Be patient. If your child is just meeting an adult family member with Autism, you must remind them to practice patience when trying to have a conversation.
  • Be respectful the way they would be toward any other adult. It’s crucial that your child still sees the adult as someone they can look up to and respect.

Knowing how to communicate with Autistic adults starts with educating our children about what Autism Spectrum Disorder is. From there, we must teach them to apply basic communication skills combined with empathy and understanding. As we continue to learn more, we pass that information along to our children to communicate effectively not only with Autistic adults but with anyone different from them.