ONE PIECE OF INFORMATION AT A TIME
Autistic people love routine and predictability. Knowing what to expect during day-to-day situations is a source of huge relief and self-confidence. Many autistic people will create guides and maps, whether on paper or in their minds, of how to guide themselves in fulfilling tasks and jobs. Others will rely on a particular person, whether that’s a family member, a carer or a teacher to inform them of what to do and to expect. What’s important to remember, however, is that if you are explaining a scenario you should take your time while doing so. No one likes to be overwhelmed with too much information and autistic people are especially prone to this.
An excellent way to get a message across when communicating instructions or offering different choices to autistic people is with visuals. Many on of the community are literal thinkers and respond well to visuals. Each person will have a different preference of what kind of technique and format they would like and it’s good practice for service providers and professionals to be mindful of this. Examples of alternative communication include (but aren’t limited to) Lámh, and the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS).
None of us like to be bombarded with too much information and too many voices. It can cause confusion and even distress. The same danger is very real for autistic people, whose challenges with sensory processing can make it especially overwhelming. When interacting with an autistic person, it’s important to use clean and clear communication coming from one voice. That may be to give instructions, explaining things, or offering choices.
LIST OF INSTRUCTIONS
Autistic people, regardless of their age or level of independence, can have a tough time with self-organisation. You might be autistic and be at the top of your class or a regular employee of the month, yet struggle to follow instructions and remember some of the most basic details. What can be done to help here is providing a clear list of tasks. These can be written or in pictures, like a social story, but what’s important is that they’re formatted in a concise and easy-to-understand way.
Providing clarity and predictability is very important. There are many examples of good practise in this area. One is social stories – a visual guide to what to expect in a particular social situation. Later in the #AsIAmChallenge we will focus specifically on this area. For now check out Dublin Airport’s as an example of best practise here.
FILLING IN THE GAPS
Social imagination is one of autism’s major challenges – understanding and being able to accurately predict how people will behave and what they’ll say in certain situations. When instructions are given or choices presented, there’s often an assumption on the other person’s part that who they’re talking to will be able to fully make sense of what’s being said. Autistic individuals need as much guidance and detail as you can possibly give. Take the time to make things clear. If, for example, you’re going to the cinema, don’t just ask “would you like to come?” – say what films you intend to see, where the showing is on, who is going, how long the outing is like to last for and so on.