I just like flamingos.

10 Tips on How to Communicate with Autistic People

Guest Post by Steve Summers*

1. Please always keep in mind that communication difficulties are common with Autism. We have difficulties in reading social cues and body language. Be patient and understanding.

2. We tend to take things literally and have often trouble reading between the lines. As a result, we may ask a lot of questions to clarify what is meant by something that you say. I have been told that I ask a lot of questions. Don’t be offended by this. It is our way of being sure that we understand what you are telling us. We may repeat back to you in our own words to try and get on the same page as you.

3. If we misunderstand something that you say, please be patient and expand on what you said and explain what you meant. Don’t assume a negative or hostile intent from us if we misunderstand something that you said. Keep in mind that communication can be difficult for us. Things that come naturally to you take extra effort by us.

4. Please don’t get offended by our communication style. We tend to be frank, honest and matter of fact. Some people may interpret this as blunt or rude. We don’t intend to offend you by not sugar coating the things that we say. We don’t intend to be rude. Please don’t get defensive or assume that we are attacking you. Remember that communicating is hard for us. Don’t make negative assumptions. Too often we get corrected or attacked by someone who fails to give us some slack and the benefit of the doubt.

5. Please don’t expect eye contact. We may be able to force eye contact, but it is not comfortable for us. Making eye contact takes a conscious effort. This effort may take away from listening and understanding what you are saying. I tend to look at a person’s mouth more often than their eyes. Other autistic people will rarely look at your face. This is ok.

6. Please keep in mind that we most likely have been rejected, excluded, ridiculed or bullied in the past. If we seem anxious or insecure this may be due to living in a world that misunderstands us and is often hostile to us. We have to work hard to reach out to others. Please work at reaching back to us with understanding and kindness. If we feel that you are ignoring us we will feel bad about that. We may persist in asking for feedback from you. Please be reassuring and clearly express your support for us.

7. Please don’t speak down to us. Treat us as equals. We may sound flat or have an unusual tone to our voice. We may not speak with our voice at all. We may need to type our words. Please be patient with us. It may take us a while to formulate our answers.

8. Please don’t talk too loudly or yell at us. It is very jarring to us. It makes me jump when someone comes up to me and talks too loudly. It is like having someone jump out in the dark yelling “BOO!” at me. It causes an adrenalin dump in my body. I don’t like this.

9. Please do NOT touch us without warning. It will make us jump. We don’t like unexpected touches.

10. Please don’t assume that we lack empathy or emotion. We pick up on negative or judgmental attitudes. We know when people look down on us or are hostile to us. We will shut down if you show us a lack of respect.

Please keep in mind that we are all different. These issues will vary from person to person. The above tips are written from my perspective as an autistic person. This is just a guide. Feel free to ask me any questions so that I may expand and clarify any areas that aren’t clear to you. Thank you for reading this guide. ~ Steve Summers

*Steve Summers

I was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome (part of the Autism Spectrum) as an adult. I was diagnosed following my 11-year-old son’s diagnosis with Aspergers. I am happy to have my diagnosis. It was like a light being turned on that illuminated my entire life in a new way. Now I understand why I never really ‘fit in.’ It is like having a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders to have my diagnosis.

I don’t feel that people should make divisions between parts of the Autism Spectrum. I am autistic and I want to work to make the world a better, more understanding and accepting place for all autistic people. We need to work together for the benefit of all on the Autism Spectrum. 

I wrote this list due to continuing difficulties that I have had with the give and take of communicating with others. Many people seem too easily offended because they fail to understand these things about me. We all need understanding and acceptance.

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69 comments on “10 Tips on How to Communicate with Autistic People

  1. Shamim
    30 May, 2012

    >Hi Lucewoman and thankyou for cienmmtong. It is true what you say; just because someone wants to socialise it is assumed that they are not autistic. The other wrong assumption that I have come across is the view that because someone is with other children that that child is socialising. Yet it is the nature of the interaction and communication that needs to be observed and listened to rather than just observing them from afar in the playground.Hi Lizbeth. I agree plus a girls symptoms of ASD can be more subtle and hardly recognised or understood. But because they are subtle doesn’t mean they are any less difficult for her than a boy who may show his ASD in a more expressive way such as my son.

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  3. linda
    26 June, 2012

    Hi have 15 year old son with autism doing well in mainstream school but its always hard from day to day!!!

    • Autismum
      26 June, 2012

      I have a relative of a similar age with Asperger’s. He is doing really well and has some wonderful friends but it’s clear he struggles sometimes too.

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  5. Mareika Holmes
    20 August, 2012

    I’m a NT and I find this info of great value…keep writing tips for the communit,so we can learn about how you think, process,interperate,dream,communicate back to us… NT’s. Great work

  6. david
    20 August, 2012

    for more understanding try the autism support network

  7. Katrina Moody
    21 August, 2012

    Great post about things that ring true whether you are an adult or child with autism. My aspie hubby still isn’t always able to look me in the eye, but I understand this about him. My guys would agree with most of this list as well – respect is the name of the game, for sure!

    • Autismum
      21 August, 2012

      Thanks for dropping in xx

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  12. Restless Hands
    28 January, 2013

    This is lovely… but I’m saddened that it’s needed. I have so many autie friends that all these things are second nature to me now and I forget that most NTs find them difficult!

  13. Nicole
    17 April, 2013

    I’m really grateful for this article! A close friend of the family adopted an autistic kid and I was so excited to finally meet him. I prepared myself before this encounter to be able to communicate with the kid, as I know that it’s difficult to talk when it comes to autism. I found lots of well-written articles like this one, but it was hard to put the tips into action. When I met the little boy, I was very nervous and everything I said appeared wrong to me. I felt really bad, even though I tried very hard. Everybody told me that this was normal and I shouldn’t be too worried about it. But I was so determined to make the little boy feel safe around me, that I consulted a professional coach on a website called Your24hCoach. I told my coach about the “unsuccessful” encounter that day and he was really skilled! He kinda explained the world to me from the eyes of an autistic person. All of a sudden I understood what it might be like to be autistic. Helped me a lot! The next encounter was successful for both of us 🙂

    • Autismum
      17 April, 2013

      Thanks for your comment. I love that an autistic child has found a loving home and so much effort is being made to understand him. You are an amazing, supportive friend.

  14. sportsbooks basics
    17 May, 2013

    It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d definitely donate to this excellent blog! I suppose for now i’ll settle for book-marking and adding
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  16. Anon
    7 August, 2013

    To Steve Summers: While this helps me understand things a bit better, I need to add that “honesty” is not always based on the truth, but on how you yourself feel about something. There are many things that influence this, including how you were raised, what you’ve seen around you etc. I mean, you are still making judgements and not always speaking of facts. I’m saying this since a few months ago, an autistic acquaintance who I’d thought of as a new friend said something that really hurt me very much, and it was not based on any facts, but on life as he saw it which may come from how some people around him view things. I mean, he may have been repeating other people’s biases. So he said this thing to me and it was very upsetting and really shook me up for a while. When I tried to tell him that saying things like that are very hurtful and untrue and affect the other person’s self esteem, he only focussed on himself and said, “I don’t like what you are saying, It upsets me”. Such a response can only seem selfish. Although he had also explained just before this that he was autistic, it seemed that everything had to be about him. He’s autistic so I have to be nice to him and not tell him how he upset me, but he can say what he likes to me and not learn not to make biased remarks around one topic.

    Telling us to be patient is one thing but we all have areas where we can learn to respect others’ feelings and this should be mutual. The strongest feeling I had in that situation was that he was chauvinistic and selfish, and using his problem as his excuse. He was in his 30s and a professional who deals with many people, so he can learn not to say certain things to people he hardly knows. And this one topic would have wrong for most people in this society.

    On the other hand, I had a previous autistic acquaintance who was sometimes a little arrogant seeming and competitive, but I never knew him to make biased or cruel remarks. I know everyone is different, but people can still learn.

    • Sheogorath
      19 June, 2014

      To Steve Summers: While this helps me understand things a bit better, I need to add that “honesty” is not always based on the truth, but on how you yourself feel about something.
      Actually, truth is how one feels about something. For example, somebody who truly believes they are Jesus will pass a polygraph with flying colours when answering “yes” upon being asked if they are Christ, even though that is not the fact.

  17. ameisha
    1 September, 2013

    Hi, I know someone who is autistic but he can not speak at all, he cn only pronounce a couple of vowels. I tried to communicate nd play with him today as it was first time meetin him, I told him I was his friend as he asked me. He was tryin to play clapping game with me and asked to tie shoelaces however I think that he is very clever in some aspects considering he can not communicate like he can always find his way back to places! Please give me advice for him as I think he is severely autistic.

    • Autismum
      1 September, 2013

      Hiya, I will let Steve know you are asking for advice. In the meantime the blog tiny grace notes is a wonderful source of info and you may want to try We Are Like Your Child – a wonderful blog written by autistic people for non autistic people.

  18. Dan
    10 September, 2013

    I feel like you captured a lot of me in your guidelines. We are obviously different people and don’t necessarily exhibit the same symptoms, but I almost felt like you were talking about me. For once, I know that someone else totally gets it. Thank you. =)

    • Autistic Aloha
      30 September, 2013

      You are very welcome. It really helps me as well to know that I am not alone. Others have very similar experiences. It is great to hear someone say, “Me too!” We don’t feel so alone or isolated when we know that others are going through these issues as well.

  19. Autistic Aloha
    30 September, 2013

    Reblogged this on Autistic Aloha and commented:
    Go check out the wonderful blog, Autismum. I have some guest posts hosted over there from before I began my own blog. This ’10 Tips’ blog post is one that has been very popular. Go check out the other posts as well on Lot’s of great reading there! ❤

  20. Donald Belanger
    30 September, 2013

    I have an 18year old son who is severely autistic and non verbal. it has always amazed me what the reaction of other children in a public place such as the supermarket is. adults tend to stare at us more than the kids do.

  21. ilene richards
    12 October, 2013

    Really appreciate ur comments and am taking them very seriously I do have one question: How does one listen to non verbal person and communicate with him?

    • Autistic Aloha
      17 October, 2013

      May I suggest that you check out this blog by my non-speaking Autistic friend, Amy Sequenzia?

      ‘Non-Speaking Autistic Speaking’ –
      “I am a non-speaking Autistic activist, writer and poet. Once said to be less than human, I found my voice and I now make sure I am heard. …” ~ Amy Sequenzia

  22. Christina
    17 October, 2013

    Nice answer back in return of this issue with solid arguments and explaining
    everything regarding that.

  23. Gresa
    19 December, 2013

    Hi , my daughter is two and was reacently diagnosed with autisem . Eventhough I try to read as much as I can find about Autisem , I cant seem to find out what’s the best way to interackt with my child. If anyone has any advice that would be very helpfull:)

  24. Marianne
    30 December, 2013

    One more thought about communicating with a person with Asbergers. I have found that my older son enjoys texting much more than a phone call. Communication is very important and we need to figure out a way to keep in touch. Telephones scare him while texting is very non threatening.

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  26. Gabby
    19 March, 2014

    my friend somewhat, suffers from austim, we just figured it out, i am trying to help her, it is tough, but we will make it through, please send her your thoughts and prayers thank you for this great site,

    23 March, 2014

    I’m amazed, I have to admit. Seldom do I come across a blog that’s both educative
    and engaging, and let me tell you, you’ve hit the nail on the head.
    The issue is something too few folks are speaking intelligently about.
    Now i’m very happy that I came across this in my search for
    something regarding this.

  28. floodedroses
    27 March, 2014

    I have a younger cousin with Autism, he has been diagnosed and it is official. He is 2 years old and all I want to do is talk to him as he always is walking away, or he says random words and..I dont know, how do I talk to him?

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  30. edison
    27 May, 2014

    hi there.. I have several friends who are autistic and I wish to communicate with them. at the same time I’m afraid of hurting them. do you mind replying me via email, then can I ask you questions? thank you for this post.

  31. Fred
    5 June, 2014

    I have just started to work with mentally disordered adults and have one young man who is severely autistic. I’m so glad I connected with this site as I want so badly to be able to help him. I will continue to use patience and listen more to “body language” than what he may or may not be saying. My job is to help my clients become more self sufficient and develop the self worth that has been beat our of them over the years. I am working through our local community services and have had very little experience it this area. Thanks for the insight you’ve been able to provide.

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  33. Earl Pollitt
    26 June, 2014

    i get frustrated by a friend who i am sure is autistic. he will recall the past and be insistent that is what happened when it is not case something else happened. his attitude of being right is difficult to take and last nite wore me down as he recalled 2 or 3 experiences.

  34. livingasd
    16 September, 2014

    my son is 3 and has been diagnosed with ASD he does not say a word or have any way to communicate with us. he gets so frustrated that we don’t understand him. any tips on how to help deal with this frustration that can lead to awful meltdowns?

    • Marie
      24 February, 2015

      The pediatric team who made the diagnosis should usually have a team of experts at hand ready to help your son and your family with these type of challenges; assuming that his hearing etc have been checked – have you tried sign language or a simplified version fo sign language?

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  36. Elizabeth
    7 November, 2014

    Hi, Do u ever stop communicating for weeks at a time with someone that u like, or does this mean u don ‘t like them when u ignore phone calls and texts? Please help me. Thank you 🙂

  37. brookesw
    17 November, 2014

    Thank you for this post! My husband has a difficult time communicating with me (I’m autistic) and I think this is a concise and straightforward way of explaining my what I have been trying to articulate politely for years

  38. sitagaia
    16 December, 2014

    Thank you so much for sharing this useful list. I will be sure to keep them in mind when interacting with people on the Autism Spectrum.

  39. Mandy Johnson
    18 December, 2014

    Thank you. This is really helpful.

  40. Helped parent
    2 January, 2015

    Thank you for all these comments and to Steve. My 47 year old son has just been diagnosed with ASD and also his 14 year old son. MY son is very pleased about the diagnosis as he too feels as though a weight has been lifted from him. I welcome these posts as finally I can understand some ot the problems we have had

  41. Roz
    8 January, 2015

    Thanks for the tips. I’ve got a couple of friends with aspergers, and I’ve never had any trouble communicating with them, but I wanted to make sure I was doing right by my autistic customers at work!

  42. Diskthing
    20 February, 2015

    The problem isn’t in the communication skills of the aspie, it’s the social language barrier between aspies and nt’s.

  43. Diskthing
    20 February, 2015

    The problem isn’t in the communication skills of the aspie, it’s the social language barrier between aspies and nt’s.

  44. Ian
    8 March, 2015

    I have had a bad past of being bullied but I have not let that get to me , I have got a full time job an also passed my driving test . I do my best every day to reach my goals an to become a more confident person

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  46. alberto quintero
    3 April, 2015

    Hi I have a son 6 I was in and out of his life. We spent time together. The mother of my son says he remember s me from pictures. I just really want him to know I love him. I know going in to detail about life isnt going to be helpfully. I just want the best way to come at him. Don’t want to over do it and scare him. Hopefully u can help me seeing him in a week

  47. Earl Pollitt
    3 April, 2015

    Excellent great clear communication. It will help with those I interact with.

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  49. Travis
    21 April, 2015

    I am working with an autistic person. I work and live in a house he bought sight unseen. My job is to rehabilitate the property. i get frustrated because there are several requests that he makes that are sometimes not normal. I want to communicate with him effectively but sometimes I’m not sure. There have been several instances where he is absolutely sure that his way is the right way and when I try to tell him that there is a better way, he won’t budge. It’s like he doesn’t trust me. Help.

  50. Jing
    26 April, 2015

    Thank you so much for writing this. My husband and I have a hard time after we get married because of our communication issue. This comes into my mind because my husband showed a lot of symptoms of autism including the ones that you listed here and others that I read other places. Just as you said it is like a light is turned on now we are working together to communicate better and have more understanding and respect for each other. For adults, it is more important to know the diagnosis because they are assumed to function well in the society. Thank you so much! -Jing

  51. Mich
    3 May, 2015

    Hello Steve, I am married to wonderful man who has been diagnosed with ASD. I have difficulty understanding how to speak to him and how to interpret what he is saying to me without getting upset. I love him deeply and must learn how to do so urgently. Could you elaborate on effective ways to express respect and love to an autistic person that is deeply hurt and afraid.

    • Benedict Roff-Marsh
      5 June, 2015

      Hi Mich

      Well #1 thing here is that you love him and think he is wonderful. He needs to know that.

      Us Aspies take everything in. We just don’t necessarily process, or act on, the same bits you do. We tend to prioritize the logical aspects over the emotive – which is pretty well the opposite of what you may well do. If you say things that make sense to you but the logic of the words means something else then hubby will be lost. My ex did this all the time and when I questioned to clarify she would just repeat and repeat the same thing with escalating anger. I would try to be more logical about the issue. Not a good outcome for either of us. Learn to make a better match between what you mean and the actual words you say.

      Also watch that if you are upset with the world that he will (probably) assume you are upset with him if you don’t keep your anger clearly on the right object. He will (also probably) try making very logical suggestions on how to proceed. Don’t ignore him as this is how we help. If he has decent social skills (as I assume he does seeing you married him) then he may well have very good advice.

      Check to see he isn’t depressed (even mildly). Sadly this isn’t too uncommon for us as we get frustrated with the world easily as we feel trapped, esp when those closest to us shut us down or out.

      Best of luck and remember to show him you love him in simple and clear ways and you are at least half way there.


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  53. Kelly
    16 September, 2015

    Steve, your response to Mitch helps me understand some questions I’ve been struggling with, especially when you reference logical responses versus emotional responses/actions. If you could further respond to your thoughts on my situation, I would greatly appreciate it.

    I have been dating someone for the past 6 months that was diagnosed with autism at an early age, but feels he’s grown out of it in his adult years. He is very successful in his career and seems to be a wonderful father. So I compare our relationship to one that is “normal” in terms of communication. To make matters more complicated, we are in a long distance relationship. I jumped right into a relationship when I first met him, almost too quickly, but I went with it. We saw each other as much as possible, talked on the phone, and facetimed whenever possible.

    Fast-forward, he now mostly texts me when it seems convenient for him, but he does always text that he loves me and we do text just about everyday. In the past 3 weeks, I’ve gone through a transition, moving, etc and he’s only called 2 times and thinks he’s made an effort in terms of communication with this relationship. This is not the first “silent” period of time we’ve had.

    In addition, I find he prioritizes his work and children ahead of me. I do think this is an admirable quality on one hand, but on the other, it’s as if he has so much on his plate that he can’t deal with anything else, including me. He says he’s committed to only me and wants to make it work long term. I’ve told him I need more in terms of communicating.

    Do I have unreasonable expectations with him? Do people really outgrow autism? I want to be fair with him as I do see a wonderful, caring person, but he continuously checks out without any notice which in return hurts me. When we work, it’s great, but then all of a sudden something will happen that makes it hard to be in a relationship with him. I do love him, but feel underappreciated in this relationship. It’s nothing I haven’t expressed to him… perhaps I’ve expressed it in the wrong way? I hate that he continues to text me and not talk these things out.

    I am seeking to understand my part in this equation. How can he be so effective in some aspects of his life yet not in others? How can I better communicate with him based on what I’ve shared?

  54. Jamie
    17 September, 2015

    Im living with a roommate who has autism. if you could email me back personally that would be great. i have some questions i would like to ask.

  55. Unnown
    24 September, 2015

    This is very helpful

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  58. Randy
    2 November, 2015

    This page sums me up. I am a eighteen year old with Asperger syndrome, and am still trying to learn how to cooperate with it as days go by. Thanks for the helpful page Steve Summers.

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This entry was posted on 7 May, 2012 by in Autism, Communication, Guest and tagged .



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