In light of April & autism acceptance month I thought I’d make a post about how autistic people communicate, because understanding and accepting our communication styles is one of the most important parts of autism acceptance. The things listed here are from my own experience and from information I have gathered from talking to other autistic people, it is by no means exhaustive. If you want to add something on I have missed feel free :+)
Lack of eye contact doesn’t mean we aren’t engaged, oftentimes maintaining eye contact is actually more distracting than not.
Our body language is different. Trying to assume how we feel from your knowledge of body language will often lead you to wrong conclusions.
Our tone does not always indicate our feelings, it’s often more telling to listen to the words we are saying themselves then try to guess what our tone means
We will likely have difficulty reading your body language and tone. The subtleties of communication don’t come easy to us, if you want us to understand what you are feeling or offer support it is most useful to communicate your feelings thoughts and needs directly.
Things we say may come off as rude or overly blunt, even if it is not intended this way.
We have varying degrees of understanding sarcasm. Some of us struggle to understand any of it, some of us actively understand and employ it and everything in between. We are also prone to literal-mindedness in general meaning we may have trouble with taking other forms of jokes or figurative speech literally.
Our communication abilities often vary with things like stress and sensory input. For example, under little stress or a good amount of sensory input I can communicate enough to explain detailed thoughts as in this post, form sentences and employ tone and cadence to my speech. At varying levels of sensory input I may begin to speak in monotone, take several minutes to put together a single sentence, or be unable to access most of my vocabulary aside from sounds and simple words like “yes” and “no”.
It is very common for autistic people to empathize by comparing similar experiences. (for example: person a: “My dog got sick, I’m worried about him.” autistic person: “Oh, my cat got sick last year too.”) People who do not empathize like this often see it as ‘one-upmanship’ when the intent is only to empathize or express sympathy.
We may interrupt you before you’re done speaking. It’s very common for autistic people to have difficulty telling when other people are finished speaking. If we interrupt you it is almost never out of rudeness but we genuinely cannot tell when is the right time to speak.
We may occasionally take over the conversation especially with info-dumping. When I info-dump I’m very excited and I feel like I can barely keep the information I want to talk about down. Being so excited, I tend to ramble for a long time, elaborating unimportant details as I am unaware to whether the listener is bored or even listening. I’m not saying you have to stay completely engaged and remember every detail but at very least don’t get angry with an autistic person for their infodumping.
A lot of autistic people also have auditory processing problems. This means that what you say might not register for a few moments or you might have to repeat yourself. Please be patient with somebody who has poor auditory processing, as it’s not really something we can help.
If you are asking the autistic person to do a task or activity of any sort (giving them directions to somewhere, asking them to come to a party, asking them to help you fold your laundry) we usually need very clear and precise instructions or plans.
These are all common parts of autistic communication styles but it’s important to remember not every autistic person is the same or will have all of these traits. We are as varied in personality, thoughts, and behaviors as allistic people, but we are tied together by shared experiences. Being aware of these traits and unlearning them as inherently bad communication styles is helpful to autistic people as a whole, but if there’s a specific autistic person in your life you want to better communicate with, the best thing you can do is ask them how you can do that and honestly discuss differences in communication and needs to best understand each other.
A sea otter floats outside of the Monterey Bay Aquarium with a large drain plug on its belly. Photo: AP—Aquarium Press
MONTEREY, CA — Monterey Bay Aquarium staff arriving to work early this morning were greeted with a shocking view: a fully drained Monterey Bay.
“Our first thought was: ‘Did we forget to the turn the pumps off last night?’” recalled systems operator Tara Lattrop. “But then we noticed our furry visitor.”
Indeed, floating in the Aquarium’s Great Tide Pool basin was a resting sea otter with what appeared to be the bay’s drain plug.
Satellite images of the water draining from the Monterey Bay Submarine Canyon after its drain plug was pulled. Images: JPL — Just Pictures of Liquid
“We periodically drop the water level to do general maintenance on the bay’s rock-work,” stated local marine technician Tad Keng. “Looks like this particular otter decided to ignore the “Paws Off” sign.”
Though officials were initially skeptical that the otter had acted unassisted, and were investigating a guilty-looking dolphin, video surfaced from local diver Joseph Platco that pulled the plug on that theory.
“Divers use the drain plug as a way to navigate back from deeper dives,” Joseph explained. “Out of nowhere, this otter swoops in and takes off with the plug!”
Though he had to end his dive early because of lack of ocean, he was thrilled by the encounter. “I can legitimately say that was the most otterly pawesome dive I’ve ever done.”
But for many visitors expecting to spend the day with an ocean view, the otter’s antics were less appreciated.
“I’ve always said otters are glorified sea weasels, and this just proves it yet again,” said Red Abalowne, a Mendocino local visiting family in Monterey. “They’re not cuddly, that’s one little big lie. Their popularity is way overblown—leave it to an otter for this kind of shameless self-plug.”
“Sea otters need to eat about a quarter of their weight in food every day,” countered sea otter specialist Sendrine Hasan. “As a result, they’re very curious and dextrous—to a hungry otter, this was just plug and play.”
Despite the initial surprise, Aquarium staff took the event in stride.
“It’s another interpretive moment!” mused science interpreter James Kovel. “We’re having a unique opportunity to witness the Monterey Bay Submarine Canyon, which is as deep as the Grand Canyon and usually covered by a mile of seawater.”
“Not only that,” he continued, “but this is a great visual representation of what the planet will look like when the global ocean vaporizes from the Sun’s inevitable expansion during the Apocalypse of the Solar System. Kids love this stuff.”
Guest experience supervisor Kirt MacKay and diver Patrik Anderson setting up to refill the bay from Aquarium storage. Photo: AP—Aquarium Press.
After trading the plug for a piece of kelp and plugging the bay back in, Aquarium staff started refilling the basin from their emergency seawater storage tanks. They expect Monterey Bay to be completely full by tomorrow, Sunday April 2.