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How to communicate with an Autistic child

Written by Ada

Effective way to communicate with an Autistic Child/ persons.

Always use their name at the beginning so that they know you are talking to them.

 Make sure they are paying attention before you ask a question or give an instruction. The signs that someone is paying attention will be different for different people.

 Use their special interest, or the activity they are currently doing, to engage them.

An autistic person can find it difficult to filter out the less important information.

If there is too much information, it can lead to ‘overload’, where no further information can be processed.

 Say less and say it slowly.

 Use specific key words, repeating and stressing them.

Pause between words and phrases to give the person time to process what you’ve said, and to give them chance to think of a response.

 Don’t use too many questions.

Use less non-verbal communication (eg eye contact, facial expressions, gestures, body language) when a person is showing signs of anxiety.

 Use visual supports (eg symbols, timetables, Social Stories™).

 Be aware of the environment (noisy/crowded) that you are in. 

Sensory input may be affecting how much they can process. Keep questions short.

 Ask only the most necessary questions.

 Structure your questions, eg you could offer options or choices.

 Be specific. For example, ask “Did you enjoy your lunch?” and “Did you enjoy maths?” rather than “How was your day?”.

Give them a visual help card to use Avoid using irony, sarcasm, figurative language, rhetorical questions, idioms or exaggeration.


If you do use these, explain what you have said and be clear about what you really mean to say. Use a behavior diary to work out if the behavior is a way of telling you something.

 Offer other ways of expressing ‘no’ or ‘stop’.  Try using a different word or symbol.

 They may be confused about why you said no. If it’s an activity that they can do later on that day or week, try showing this in a timetable

 ‘No’ is often used when someone is putting themselves or others in danger. If it’s a safety issue, look at ways of explaining danger and safety.

 If you are saying ‘no’ because they are behaving inappropriately, you may want to change your reaction to their behaviour.

Try not to shout or give too much attention, a calm reaction may help to decrease this behavior in time.

 Set clear boundaries and explain why and where it is acceptable and not acceptable to behave in certain ways.

Communication happens when one person sends a message to another person. This can be verbally or non-verbally. Interaction happens when two people respond to one another – two-way communication.

Most people on the autism spectrum have difficulty interacting with others.

They may have difficulty with initiating interactions, responding to others, or using interaction to show people things or to be sociable.

Understanding and relating to other people, and taking part in everyday family, school, work and social life, can be harder.

Other people appear to know, intuitively, how to communicate and interact with each other, yet can also struggle to build rapport with autistic people.

A 2016 study found that neurotypical people often quickly develop a negative bias towards autistic people in face to face social situations.

However, these biases were not present when the conversation took place without audio-visual cues.

Some autistic children are delayed in their use of language and some autistic adults don’t use speech. In those cases, other methods of communication need to be established.

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The person may appear not to hear what you say to them, not respond to their name, or appear indifferent to any attempts you make to communicate.

They may use some of the following to communicate with you:



 taking your hand to the object they want

 looking at the object they want


 using pictures

Lets help people with Autism don’t stigmatize.

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