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  • Writer's pictureAmy Duffy-Barnes

The Differences Between Autistic and Neurotypical Communication

Communication is a vital part of life, allowing us to interact with each other and build meaningful relationships. For neurotypicals and autistics alike, communication can be a difficult process. However, there are some key differences between autistic and neurotypical communication that can be important to understand. These include aphasia impacting autistic communication, the tendency for an autistic person to be intense and black and white in social conversations leaving out social niceties, or trying to connect by using personal stories to establish shared meaning. All of these types of communication can be upsetting and confusing and easily misinterpreted by neurotypical people. By understanding the differences between autistic and neurotypical communication, we can create a more neurodiversity-affirming environment for everyone.

Aphasia is a condition that affects communication and can have an impact on a significant number of autistic individuals. Aphasia can affect the ability to speak, read, and write, making it difficult for people to communicate their thoughts and feelings. This can be especially true for those who are emotionally dysregulated, as they may find it difficult to access the words they need in order to effectively express themselves. Aphasia can also interfere with understanding others, which can lead to social challenges and functional communication for autistic individuals.

The main symptom of aphasia is difficulty with spoken language, but there are other indicators, such as difficulty understanding words, writing, and understanding written language. Autistic individuals may experience problems with all forms of communication, including non-verbal communication. For example, they may have difficulty understanding facial expressions or body language, or they may struggle to interpret tones of voice or facial expressions. This can lead to confusion and misunderstanding.

One of the key differences between autistic and neurotypical communication is that autistic people tend to communicate in a more direct way. Autistic individuals may come across as intense, but this is because they are trying to share information quickly and efficiently. They might also be perceived as being black and white in their communication, as they will sometimes avoid ambiguous language and present factual information. There aren't always irrelevant social niceties woven into their conversations which neurotypicals can find offensive. This type of communication can be helpful in problem-solving and making decisions, but it can also lead to misunderstandings and hurt feelings when interacting with neurotypicals. It's important to remember that this tendency to be direct is not intended to be confrontational or insensitive, and efforts should be made to ensure all parties involved feel respected and understood.

The way in which autistic people attempt to establish a shared meaning can be vastly different from how neurotypical people do. Autistic people often tell personal stories and give long explanations as a way of communicating their feelings and thoughts to others. However, neurotypical people often find this communication style offensive and become defensive. This is because neurotypical people prefer more direct communication with little personal story-telling.

The goal of autistic people is not to criticize or offend neurotypicals but instead to connect and establish a shared understanding. Autistic people have an intense need to make sure they are understood, and in order to achieve this they often resort to lengthy explanations and personal stories. This can often be interpreted as confrontational by neurotypicals which seems to trigger their defense mechanisms, or they perceive autistic people as being rambling, but it’s important to remember that this is simply the way autistic people communicate and is not meant to criticize or offend but to share information or connect.

When it comes to establishing a shared meaning, both autistic and neurotypical people should be aware of their differences in communication styles and be willing to learn about and respect the ways of the other. Both sides should also be willing to make some compromises in order to meet each other halfway. By doing this, both sides can establish a shared understanding that works for everyone involved. One of the most important aspects of doing this is to realize you are speaking two different languages.

Many of us can mask and speak neurotypical but that is painful and it is very difficult to feel that I have any value in society when I have to pretend to be someone else and communicate in a different way to be accepted. You will never get to know an autistic person authentically if you don't understand and accept the way they communicate. The potential and contributions of the autistic community can often be lost in translation if there is no attempt to understand our ways of communicating. I am hoping that someday we have a more neurodiverse-affirming world where autistic ways of communicating are accepted and understood.

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