How to relate to someone with autism

Stephen McHugh
This post was last updated on
August 17, 2022
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How to relate to autistic peoplePinDo you know anyone who may seem different from the rest of us, particularly in the way they may interact with others and the world in general? 

Are they particularly gifted at certain things like music?

Are they sensitive to certain stimuli, like loud noises?

If so, they may have a condition known as autism

Use simple and direct language

Those of us with autism can tend literal views of language. This is particularly the case when complicated forms of language like idioms and metaphors are involved. If you’re telling someone that you’re not buying or doing something that is expensive, don’t use a phrase like an arm and a leg. When a simpler way will suffice, use it, such as "That was too expensive", here.

If you wish to try and explain idioms to an autistic person, you're welcome to have a read of and try some ideas from this older post here.

Avoid sarcasm

People with autism can misinterpret sarcasm. Sarcasm refers to remarks that mean the opposite of what one said. This can be done by listening to the tone of one’s voice, which autistic people can have trouble working out. 

Treat them like you would any human being

Autistic people are human just like any other person on the planet. Just because somebody is different from what may be considered the norm doesn’t make it right to treat them differently. Nature made us what and who we are. 

Be patient

From my experience, some of us with autism will have experienced language and speech development delays. Consequently, at first we may have difficulties understanding what we’re being asked. It’s likely that our brains are wired in such a way that it takes longer for us to process information and to give out responses in ways that we’d like. So, don’t assume we’re being ignorant, naughty or lazy.

Try starting a conversation

When it comes to initiating a conversation, an autistic person may be shy, have trouble deciding what to say for fear of being judged.  They may unintentionally show inappropriate forms of body language in the process. Why not ask them about what their interests are. You may find you have something in common.

Read one of my older blog post here. You may use ideas from it to show your friend tips about how to think of and start possible conversations, including a latest blockbuster film, or a recent big football match.

Give sensitive and direct feedback and criticism

Mistakes are a fact of life. They always have been, still are, and always will be. Those of us with autism may make gestures, facial expressions, use certain voice tones or other inappropriate behaviours that may unintentionally offend others, as we may have difficulty interpreting these. An approach here would be just to provide feedback directly in a way that doesn’t make them feel bad.  This could help us to better understand more complicated social situations. 

Stand up for them if others display bullying behaviours towards them

Those of us with autism are vulnerable to bullying, especially where the bullying is happening in very subtle ways. These can be situations where an autistic person may misinterpret body language, voice tones and facial expressions.

In a school environment, a child with autism could be led into undesirable situations and get into trouble. It is in situations like this where there should be trusted people to point out situations like this to them.

There should be someone who an autistic person can trust and talk to if they’re particularly anxious or worried about something. A problem shared is a problem halved. 


Having autism can bring about numbers of challenges, certainly in terms of social interactions and establishing meaningful relationships with others.

By helping others in a particular group become more aware, we can create settings that are more welcoming for the autistic people, and help them feel part of groups and wider communities. Sometimes people are keen on hearing my piano playing skills. Being gifted at certain things like music, those of us with autism can offer plenty to the world. And that's one of several things I like about being on the autism spectrum.

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