Everyone can benefit from gaining new communication skills – neurodiverse children and adults, family members, friends, students and teachers, employers and work colleagues.
For some Aspergers small talk is more of a challenge or knowing when or how to start or end a conversation, and what to talk about. We may use less eye contact so we can hear and process what you say better.
It can be more difficult for us to understand the unwritten 'social rules' that most others sense without thinking, so social interaction can be stressful and confusing. It can be difficult for us working out what other people know or guessing what other people are thinking or their personal space. So a person with Aspergers may unintentionally stand too close or choose an inappropriate conversation topic or need to withdraw and take a break. Socialising can be exhausting for us. Please support and, if we ask, coach us in what to do.
Tips for effective communication
For non-Aspies: These tips help clear communication and realistic expectations and avoid sensory overload:
- Don't assume you know what an Asperger needs - ask them
- Reflect back what they have said to clarify what they mean
- Give immediate positive feedback, for example say ‘well done’ or ‘thanks for doing ..…’
- Use concrete specific terms and less words so we can process what you say
- Discuss one topic at a time, ask for one task at a time
- Provide visual images when sharing or describing information
- Be aware that a person may need to take a break away from noise, conversation or other sensory stimulation
- Use lists and systems as reminders
- Don’t mistake inaction for laziness or lack of interest
- Use a growth mindset approach to mistakes and learning
- Follow up verbal discussions with written outline (e.g. email or if in class on the board) in simple language of the next steps or what you expect
- Recognise when you can’t do something or don't understand and say so
- Stay calm, take a break when frustrated or anxious e.g. go to bathroom
- Seek help and advice when needed - have a trusted friend as your communications advisor/mentor
- Think positive, don’t take immediate offence at misaligned words, body language or tone of voice
- Check and ask what is meant by the other person in order to maintain clear communication
- Don’t think the worst, don’t mistake frustration or anxiety in others for them being angry with you
- Try to become aware of your emotional triggers/stressors : Self Reg approaches can assist once you know
- If you suspect bullying seek support and tell someone soon afterwards
The communication tips listed above can be useful in any situation, obviously, with anyone, irrespective of Asperger or neurodiverse personality traits.
For more specific tips on supporting and communicating with people with Aspergers in the workplace, check out our free guides.
Communicating with partners
Tips for Aspergers on dealing with difficult people