How can I understand an autistic person

Autistic Aid

People with Autism Spectrum Disorder often have problems with the content and use of language. These difficulties are particularly evident:

  • when communicating with others (expressive language). The ability to use language specifically to express or receive something is often impaired in people with autism spectrum disorder. However, there is a big difference in the level of language skills. Some people communicate with the help of pictures or signs, while others have a particularly strong linguistic talent, but still have difficulty using language.
  • in understanding linguistic expressions (receptive language). It can happen that people with Autism Spectrum Disorder respond poorly to verbal contact offers or prompts. This can be because the person you are talking to is saying too quickly and too much at once and it is impossible for the person concerned to process everything that has been said. Sometimes, however, the linguistic understanding is so limited that only simple terms and short sentences can be understood. In addition, sufferers have difficulty understanding ambiguous, sarcastic, or ironic comments. People with Autism Spectrum Disorder generally find it easier if specific language is used with as few “flowery expressions” as possible.
  • in understanding non-verbal communication (facial expressions, body language and gestures): When people talk to each other, information is not only exchanged through language. Much of the content of a conversation is conveyed exclusively through body language, facial expression or the use of certain gestures. This is how we manage to assess the interlocutor as well as his intentions, wishes and feelings. The main difficulty in people with autism spectrum disorder is recognizing and interpreting these non-verbal signals. On the one hand, they miss out on important content of the conversation and the conversation partner does not feel understood as a result. On the other hand, a mutual conversation causes great stress and anxiety for the person concerned, because the conversation partner and his signals are often difficult to evaluate.

Social interactions, i.e. situations in which there is contact with other people, are often difficult for people with autism spectrum disorder. On the one hand, the limitations in communication skills contribute to this, on the other hand, people with autism spectrum disorder have a limited “theory of mind”.
The term “Theory of Mind” describes the ability to recognize, assess and predict feelings and thoughts in oneself and others.

While people generally know intuitively how to start a conversation (for example with the help of small talk) and make friends, this is a great challenge for a person with autism spectrum disorder. Another term used in this context is "empathy" (empathy). But that doesn't mean that people with Autism Spectrum Disorder don't care about other people's feelings and desires - they just don't recognize the emotional states well enough to be able to respond appropriately.

Key Features

  • Special features in communication

Special features in behavior
Special features in perception
Special features in the processing of information