5 Ways To Interact With An Autistic Person

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Let’s talk for a sec.

What do you do when you meet someone with a different level of independence than you? 

I know how easy it is to treat people who look and act differently as if they’re not “normal” human beings. As if they don’t need the same respect and consideration as others.

I’ve seen it firsthand as the very close-in-age sister of my autistic brother.

It’s true that autistic people interact differently from others — that’s one of their defining features, whether that’s trouble reading social cues or being nonverbal. And it’s very human not to know how to react to these differences.

So, we asked fellow autism families what they wished you knew about interacting with autistic people. Here’s what they said. Hopefully, it helps you feel more confident the next time you meet someone different from you.

1. Relax And Greet Them

Even if the autistic person seems uninterested or odd, acknowledge them like you would anyone. Relax. If you’re comfortable, they’ll love your company. If you’re stressed, they’ll feel it. According to parents:

Introduce yourself and don’t lurk or stand around silently. Engage with what she is already doing – Mom of 8 yo

Be relaxed and just talk to him. Anyone is most welcome to talk to him, be friendly – Mom of 29 yo

2. Show Interest In Them By Celebrating Them To Create Trust

Even if they don’t show interest in you, initiate a connection by interacting. Most autistic people are used to being ignored, so if you spend the time trying to get to know them, they’ll immediately trust you. One way is to give genuine compliments. You can never go wrong celebrating who they are.

Keeping her included in the conversation and ask her questions about herself – Mom of 31 yo.

Show interest in her, praise any small achievement – Sister of 31 yo

He would be happy to have someone give him attention – Mom of 29

3. Figure Out What They Are Interested In 

Start with something you know they like. If you don’t know what that is, ask questions, and they will guide you.

Join him in his play. – Mom of 22 yo

Listen to him. Talk about yourself and whatever interests him – Mom of 29

Go back to basics. Offer snacks. Go for a walk outside. Keep things simple and plan ahead. – Mom of 10 yo

4. Do It All Again Next Time You See Them

Even if you have to repeat your name every time you see them, even if it seems like they don’t care about you, the autistic person in your life appreciated your interaction. 

Keep on engaging and including them. Most autistic people and their caregivers are anxious that you will judge them. Trying to connect will make them and their caregiver the happiest, even if they don’t look happy. The attempt means more than the success of the interaction itself.

It’s so thoughtful when friends make an effort to include us and ask in advance if there’s anything that would make us feel more at ease.

Even if we turn you down 3 or 4 times, please keep asking and inviting. We need that push. – Mom of 10 yo

5. Treat Them How You’d Like To Be Treated

Remember that every autistic person is different. Introduce yourself, include them in conversation, and get to know what they’re interested in. They will be appreciative of the gesture.

That means:

✓Act normal

✓Introduce yourself

✓Communicate using clear and concise language

✓Treat them with kindness and empathy

✓Respect their boundaries

✓Compliment them for their abilities

The best way to interact with an autistic person is the golden rule: to treat them as you would like to be treated.