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Communicating with your autistic child is possible, even though their brains work differently. Think of each communication like molding a brick. At first, the brick is wet and doesn’t support much, but each brick made solidifies and eventually supports it. Then, as the brick sets and you put similar bricks on top, it begins to form a foundation.

A perfect example is the following communication between mom Christine and her autistic daughter, Carly. Carly recently returned to middle school, and when Christine asks how her day went at school, she doesn’t always answer.

However, the week following the start of school, Christine applied for a part-time retail job. She hadn’t worked in public for many years, and the anxiety of applying hit her. So she thought, “What if some people don’t like me or I don’t like some of them? What if I’m not happy there? What if they expect too much from me?

When she discussed the situation with her sister, Noelle, Noelle said, “Chris, do you think this is how Carly must feel about going to school?” Christine thought for a moment and said, “There’s a good chance she might.” So, Christine decided to share her feelings with her daughter about the new job and what was worrying her. A big smile spread across Carly’s face, “That’s how I feel about school!” “Now you know how I feel; welcome to my world!”

That’s when Christine realized there was another way to communicate with her autistic daughter. By learning how to build these connections, you prepare your kids for and support them through transitions even when you’re not with them.

Ways to Communicate with Your Autistic Child

Share Common Feelings

Instead of focusing on how you are different, tune in to how you and your child are similar. They are autistic and do things differently.

Respect Your Child’s Need for Daily Structure

When they know what’s coming, anxiety decreases, making communication easier. Carly was a miserable baby before Christine put her on a strict schedule. Carly happily latched right onto this structure and, as a toddler, would even start climbing up the stairs to her bedroom before she knew it was nap time.

Presume Competence

When the autism diagnosis comes in, the neurologists often lowball you. They tell you everything your child won’t be able to do. They can communicate with you; it may just look different. Presume that they can and offer patience when it’s needed.

Give Your Child Choices

Lack of control breeds anxiety in autism; even if the choices are yours, try to give them options.

Find Out How They Have Fun and Join Them

Scripting is an activity where an autistic will take lines or whole scenes from a book or a show and use them to communicate. Christine would join Carly in doing this; it became a game between them, a way to have fun and connect. Christine could start a script when Carly was angry, which would diffuse the situation.

The Bottom Line

Communicating with your autistic child can help them through transitions like returning to school. It also strengthens your relationship with your child. The more you understand how they feel, the more you can meet them where they are. When your child feels understood, their anxiety decreases, making them more likely to communicate with you.


Dr. Diane® Roberts Stoler, Ed.D.
7 Hodges Street
N. Andover, MA 01845
Phone: (800) 500-9971
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Dr. Diane is a catalyst for change

Image Credit Elaine Boucher

Within each person shines an inner light that illuminates our path and is the source of hope. Illness, trauma, suffering and grief can diminish the light and shroud hope. I am a catalyst for hope and change, offering a way to rekindle this inner light.

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