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Conversing with Adults on the Autism Spectrum

  • Published: 2013-04-22 (Revised/Updated 2016-04-02) : Author: May Institute
  • Synopsis: Communicating effectively with adults on the autism spectrum including courtesies to enhance level of comfort and understanding between you and another.

Ways to Support Adults on the Autism Spectrum When Engaging in Conversation.

A complex, lifelong condition that affects individuals from all walks of life, as well as their families, friends and caregivers. Autism is a spectrum disorder, defined by certain behaviors which come in combinations and in degrees of intensity that vary in each child and adult affected. Many individuals with ASD have trouble communicating with others or difficulty with regular social interactions. Other signs include a tendency toward repetitive behaviors, and unusual or severely limited activities and interests. ASD develops differently from person to person, and the effects can range from relatively mild to debilitating. Unlike some conditions, there is no "typical" person with ASD.

Even the most well-intentioned and informed adults can flounder when it comes to communicating effectively with peers, co-workers, classmates, or gym buddies on the autism spectrum. While no two individuals with autism have the same language and social skills, there a few basic courtesies that you can extend to enhance the level of comfort and understanding between you and another.

Colleagues Scott Chausse , M.Ed., Director of Vocational Services at the Todd Fournier Center for Employment Training and Community Inclusion in Massachusetts, and Teka J. Harris , M.A., BCBA, Clinical Director for the May Center for Adult Services in Western Massachusetts, team up to share five universal tips to keep communication respectful and productive for all parties.

Founded in 1955, May Institute has its roots in a family's vision of enabling children with disabilities to lead the fullest lives possible. Today, May Institute provides educational, rehabilitative, and behavioral healthcare services to individuals with autism spectrum disorders and other developmental disabilities, brain injury, mental illness, and behavioral health needs. For more information, call 800.778.7601 or visit

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