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Autistic people usually prefer explicit, clear messages that don’t rely on tone or nonverbal cues. We like having specific expectations laid out for us, and being given many opportunities to ask questions and clarify meaning. When we share these needs with the allistic people around us, our relationships can open up, allowing for much greater depth and breadth of connection. When we accept the unique features and strengths of our communication style, we can also feel a lot less socially inept and disempowered.

Here’s a table summarizing some common Autistic communication needs. You can share this table with neurotypical people in your life or organizations that are aiming to be more accessible, or simply request some of these specific adjustments for yourself.

Common Autistic Communication Needs

Overall Need: Clear Expectations

Some Accommodations:

• Specific plans with details about time, place, and what is likely to happen
• A clear “yes” or “no,” no euphemisms like “I’ll think about it”
• Meeting agendas that are handed out in advance, and then adhered to
• Reading materials, questions, and discussion topics being provided in advance of a panel, interview, or other high- stress public event
• Step- by- step, detailed instructions on how to complete a task
• Specific, measurable outcomes or goals.

Overall Need:  Explicit messaging

Some Accommodations You Might Request:

• Not assuming people can use facial expression, tone of voice, posture, breathing, or tears as indicators of emotion
• Giving direct explanations of feelings: “I am disappointed right now because . . .”
• Recognition and respect of boundaries: “It doesn’t sound like Sherry wants to talk about that right now.”
• Not punishing or judging people for failing to read between the lines.
• Using clarifying questions: “What would you like me to do about this?”

Overall Need: Reduced Sensory/Social Load

Some Accommodations You Might Request:

• Having no expectation of eye contact during intense conversations
• Giving space to talk about challenging topics while driving, taking a walk, or doing something with one’s hands
• Allowing people to express emotions and opinions via text, email, or handwritten note
• Giving people time alone to reflect on their feelings and beliefs
• Learning to recognize fawning, and signs of an upcoming meltdown
• Providing frequent breaks from socializing, or quiet spaces people can retreat to