A few years ago, I was eating a meal with a group of people. At one point, one of the people there asked me the following question. "Tell me about yourself?" I sat there for the longest time, because I wasn't sure how to answer him. I had many different thoughts going through my mind. Among them were "How do I answer the question?" "If I tell him I am Autistic, he will reject me." "If I don't tell him, I know I will answer with some dumb answer." Finally, I decided to tell him. "I apologize. I am Autistic and I do not know how to answer open ended questions." How did he respond? "You didn't need to tell me that." How rude his answer was to me. I spent time thinking about what to say, and when I answered by telling him the first and most important answer I could, he tells me I didn't have to tell him that.
I recently had an Autistic friend write me and say "I am tired of being a failure. I have lost all my friends because it takes me too long to answer the question 'How are you?'"
Many Autistics cannot answer open ended questions. Questions such as,
How are you?
How was your day?
What would you like to eat?
What do you want to do?
How do you want me to help you?
These are some of the most common open ended questions that other Autistics cannot answer.
Instead try asking us (and keep in mind, it works differently for each Autistic person),
Did you do something you enjoyed today?
We have chicken nuggets, hot dogs, baked potatoes and fries. Which of these would you like to eat?
Do you want to watch She Hulk, the Football game, or Start Trek?
I can offer you some help with how reading your email so you understand what they are saying, would you like help with that?
Be as specific with your questions, so that we may understand what answer you want.
Autistics like myself have our own ways of communicating. Some of us can read body language while others of us cannot. Some of us can understand a nonverbal facial expression, while others of us need you to tell us what you are feeling. Please don't beat around the bush. Please do not ask us something sarcastically. Just ask us what you want us to tell you.
In May 2021, I had Dan (DJ) Carmichael who is Autistic and a co-owner of GT Independence as a guest on my podcast. At one point, I made the comment that I think the answer to a lot of what Autistics experience is because people need to understand Autism better. Dan's response to me was that no people do not need to understand Autism as much as they need to change their idea of what normal is. He was right. All too often neurotypicals only think from the viewpoint of what is "neuro-normal." Neurodiversity is a movement to encourage people to accept that there are different brains in the world, and that there needs to be more room for the different brains.
On December 19th, my final podcast episode will be Communicating with Autistics: NT's Let Us Teach You Our Languages, with my guests Tas Kronby and Grace Ogden-Parker. Contratry to what many neurotypical people believe, Autistic Adults have our own language as ot how we communicating with other people. Instead of trying to give us your next best lecture as to how to communicate with you, why not take some time to learn how we communicate? Who knows? You might actually learn something. Think of how many times neurotyicals say that to us, and listen to us for a change.