The next installment of this dialogue continues to focus on communication with an emphasis on preparing the listener.
The final communication aspect to be discussed is preparation. What is meant by preparation is that people with Autism typically like to know what to expect and become flustered with change that is not anticipated. This goes back to the assertion that people with Autism have difficulty shifting their thoughts quickly. This appears true for conversation topics as well as activities. When wanting to change the topic, let the person with Autism know the intent to do so. Qualifiers such as “Speaking of ….” Or “that reminds me of …” can be used, or simply stating that you’d like to talk about something else will also work. When a person with an Autism wants to change the subject they may impulsively blurt out the new topic. If they do this, it is ok to acknowledge that the individual would like the topic changed, but then show them how to change the topic more appropriately before proceeding. Also, they may need to be reminded to allow the speaker to finish their thought before they can speak. The other type of preparation that is important for conversation is preparation for ending the encounter. In addition to warning the person that the conversation needs to end, tell them why this needs to happen. They’ll likely want to say one last final thought for closure. Frequently, when the person with an Autism wants to end a conversation they typically just stop talking. Sometimes, however, the pause is just for the person to collect their thoughts and continue speaking. When you hear an extended silence it is ok to ask “do you have any more you wish to say?” if they say “no” then you would want to model appropriate conversation enders like “good bye,” “see you later,” “and it was nice talking to you.”
I hope you are finding this discussion helpful. If you like this discussion or would prefer discussing another topic, please let me know.
Steven C. Altabet, Ph.D. Licensed Clinical Psychologist with a specialty in Autism Spectrum Disorders