The idea that autistic people have poor communication skills is almost a cliché in neurodiversity circles. Sure, some autistic folks are bad communicators; that’s true among non-autistic people too. What’s behind that idea that autistics have poor communication skills? It’s that non-autistic people don’t know how to communicate with autistic adults.
I’ve talked a lot in the past about the difference in communication styles between autistics and neurotypical people. We autistics are trained from birth in neurotypical communication styles just by living in a neurotypical world; going to school, working a job, or just going to the grocery store require a working knowledge of neurotypical norms. Masking itself is a way of coping with neurotypical communication styles.
Learning to communicate should go in both directions. Neurotypical folks should learn how to communicate with autistic adults, especially those who live or work directly with us, rather than expecting the burden of communication to fall on neurodivergent parties.
Although communication styles are highly personalized and affected by culture and language, there are some basic tendencies in autistic communication that apply across the spectrum. For example, autistic folks tend to prefer direct speech, and some of us can get confused (or have to work harder to process) certain forms of slang. The best guide I’ve found for neurotypicals wanting to learn neurodivergent communication norms is Is That Clear? : Effective Communication in a Neurodiverse World by Zanne Gaynor, Kathryn Alevizos, and Joe Butler.
How to Communicate with Autistic Adults? Read this book.
Thank you to author Zanne Gaynor for offering a complimentary electronic copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I received no compensation for this review.
Is That Clear? : Effective Communication in a Neurodiverse World by Zanne Gaynor, Kathryn Alevizos, and Joe Butler is a brief 100 pages long, but somehow still manages to offer a full set of autism-inspired tips for allistic (non-autistic) people. Language experts Zanne Gaynor and Kathryn Alevizos worked with autism consultant Joe Butler, plus a panel of autistic readers, to create this excellent and accessible manual to more inclusive communication in a neurodiverse world.
The guide is split into three sections that focus on practicality and how we use language at work and at home during our day-to-day lives. Those sections are called “Adapting Your Language,” “Inclusive Not Exclusive,” and “Different Ways to Communicate.” Subsections focus on the most common trouble-spots in communication between autistic and allistic people, dealing with issues like pacing our speech, how some forms of politeness are confusing for autistic people, and non-verbal communications, which tend to trip up autistics like me. The non-verbal communication section, for example, covers how to notice and adapt any methods of communication that are not speech, like gestures, facial expressions, and body language.
I want to buy a hundred copies of this book and give one to every allistic professional that my family ever works with. Even as an autistic professional myself, working almost exclusively with other autistic people, I learned a lot through reading this book and working through the homework. I’ve already implemented some of these recommendations into my speech and writing with autistic clients, and have had a very positive response. If I can learn from this book as an autistic person, imagine what a neurotypical person could get from it!
I am so excited that Is That Clear? : Effective Communication in a Neurodiverse World now exists in our world, and I heartily recommend it to everyone out there who wants to learn to communicate better, regardless of your own neurotype!