What not to say to a person who has told you they are autistic

Kelly and Hester Grainger

Co-founders of Perfectly Autistic

Autism is a spectrum condition that affects people in different ways. However, there are a lot of misconceptions surrounding autism, which can lead to awkward situations when someone discloses they have it.

It’s also a mental health issue – over one third of autistic people experience a serious mental health issue, with anxiety being especially closely linked.

Kelly Grainger, who is autistic, and his wife Hester Grainger have shared their top list of questions not to ask someone who has disclosed they are autistic.

1. You don’t look autistic.

Being autistic doesn’t look a certain way. If you meet one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person. They may have similar traits, but no two people are the same – autistic or not.

2. Oh, I thought you were just a bit blunt.

Some autistic people can be blunt or don’t like small talk. They aren’t being rude – they are just being themselves and don’t feel the need to pretend to be polite.

3. You are only mildly autistic, aren’t you?

There is no such thing as mild or severe autism. Autism is a spectrum and everyone on it is different. You may think it’s mild autism, because it doesn’t impact you.

A man adjusts his headphones while working.

4. I didn’t think you were autistic as you can make eye contact.

Making eye contact (or not) isn’t a sign of autism. Some autistic people concentrate incredibly hard to make eye contact, even if it makes them feel really uncomfortable. Or sometimes they try so hard they end up staring.

5. Don’t be so uptight – it’s not a big deal!

Something may not seem ‘a big deal’ to you, but to an autistic person they can fixate on something small and it’s all they can think about.

6. What’s your special talent?

Autism is not the same as Savant Syndrome (like the film Rainman) where someone may have an amazing memory or being able to put together a jigsaw without looking at the picture. It’s not right to assume that since someone has autism, they must have an unusual skill.

Keep your eyes open for our autism in the workplace toolkit coming soon.

Kelly and Hester Grainger are co-founders at www.perfectlyautistic.co.uk.

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