Although many people with autism and Asperger’s will be able to speak well, their ability to hold and sustain a conversation may be low. They often don’t understand the social rules we live by such as saying “good morning” when they get up (why would I do that? It’s not a good morning, it’s actually really crappy and I saw you last night and we’ve been in the same house the whole time and I’m really interested in telling you about this game I was playing so why would I say hi and ask how you are first?). They cut the junk out of a conversation and rely on honesty to talk to you. Having a conversation with someone with autism will be some of the most uncomfortable but most pure chats you will have.
The tragedy of it is JUST BECAUSE THEY DON’T ENGAGE IN SOCIAL ACTIVITIES DOESN’T MEAN THEY DON’T WANT TO. Some people with autism and Asperger’s long for friendships but dread the conversation that is expected of them or just don’t know how to go about getting and keeping friends.
“Why do I have to keep telling my friend I love them or I like hanging out with them, if I have told them once. If I haven’t let them know it has changed then I still love them so why say it again?!!”
Parents: find friends for your kids who are happy to sit and be with your child without the need for constant conversation, find those comfortable in silence, comfortable in playing XBOX without a word, in sitting side by side and just being together no pressure, or in engaging patiently in a LONG talk about your one’s special interest. People who love your kid just the exact way s/he is.
Talking on the phone for some kids with autism is a magnificent way for friends/family to connect because phone conversations don’t have all of the non-verbal cues that they struggle with and they don’t have to “look me in the eye”! It may be a non-threatening way to teach social skills.
However, many teens and adults with autism and Aspergers will tell you they dread talking on the phone. It makes sense because it is based largely on those ridiculous social rules we all follow such as “Hi, how are you? How is your family? What’s been happening lately?” People with autism struggle to understand why we ask these things if we really don’t care and have more important things to talk about like the reason you actually called…duh!
So if your kidlet is young, take the pressure off conversation and try it on the phone. Give them a script to follow and tell them these are the general rules of talking on the phone (say hi this is Harry, they’ll say hi harry how are you, you reply good thanks how are you, etc. tell them you go through this at the start and then you have an idea in mind about what that want to talk about, tell them they’d usually ring to tell a friend some good news or that you got a new game or toy BUT you can just ring for a chat because you know they’ll talk to you about your interests) and then put it on loud speaker so you can guide and role model.
Start with understanding adults then move to cousins and friends. If you do this when they are young and they practice the social rules lots, it will be automatic when they are older and they will enjoy phone calls rather than dread them.
Also important to teach them to answer the phone when they are young or you will end up with some interesting experiences…
“Hi, is your mum there?”
He looks around and sees that mum is not in the room. “No” hangs up without another word even though mum is in the house just not right there like the caller asked! The caller hadn’t asked to leave a message or get mum to call back so he doesn’t even tell mum that someone rang.
Put the phone on loud speaker when you answer the phone so they can watch and hear you do it. Then get them to practice taking messages and what to say when people call, otherwise the caller will be met with silence and simple no and yes answers.
This is a Google docs template for you to print out, laminate and use as a script for teaching your kidlet to talk on the phone and answer the phone: