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Building Relationships with Individuals with Autism

Each person has a unique way of communicating and interacting with others. Some people are more outgoing and find it easy to interact, meet others, and make friends, while others have a harder time connecting. This is no different for individuals with autism. Learning about how someone with autism communicates, interacts, and connects with others can help us build relationships with them and help them build relationships with others. 

An image that shows the relationship between each item and how everything and everyone is connected.

Relationships come in all forms. When I’m referring to relationships, I’m talking about all kinds of relationships, not just romantic ones. 

Many of our ideas about how to communicate, interact with others, and connect with those around us, are based on social norms, cultural factors, and family factors. Our expectations of eye contact, response times, and even the words we use are all based on those three ideas. How can we be more accepting and adaptable to those who may communicate and interact differently?

a mother communicating and connecting with her daughter as they engage in a conversation.

In my experience, being more open, flexible, understanding, and patient can help build relationships with individuals with autism and help them to build relationships with others. 

Here is a list of factors to consider:

Eye Contact

Eye contact can be difficult for someone with autism. You may notice the person does not make direct eye contact or looks away frequently. It is important that when interacting with someone with autism, we understand that eye contact can be difficult or even painful. It is not intended as a sign of disrespect. 

friends who are having a conversation without eye contact.

Repetition

Some people with autism may need you to repeat what you said during the conversation. They may need to repeat what they said as well. We may call this echolalia (repeating what someone else has said) or palilalia (repeating what you have said). Of course, this is not meant to mock or make fun of the other person because it is used to process information.

Response Time 

All of us process information in different ways and at different rates. This is the same for someone with autism. Being patient while the person processes the interaction and what was said before responding can help make your interaction more pleasant. 

response times may vary based on each individual. here two friends are having a conversation in a kitchen and one is looking down thinking about her response.

Interests

Many individuals with autism have specific interests. Engaging in communication and interactions outside of those interests may be hard and uninteresting. One way to start building a relationship with someone with autism is to ask about their interests. 

Let us Help!

We want to help you communicate and interact more with individuals with autism. We can put together a training course for you to learn more about autism and how to best build relationships with them. Give us a call or email us to get started! 

Looking for More?

Check out our video about how to promote language and communication at home.

Disclaimer: The information and content in this blog and any links and materials are not intended to be and should not be construed or substituted as medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician and or other qualified healthcare professionals with any questions you may have.