I was recently chatting with a friend; this became an exchange where we talked about our frustrations. Why is it, I wondered, that it’s okay to ask me personal, and sometimes offensive questions, because I am on the autistic spectrum? I have been asked many questions-including things like “have you had your IQ tested?”, “Are you normal?”, “But you’re okay, aren’t you?”
With that in mind, if you’re not on the spectrum, these questions are what you should be asking:
What’s your special interest? I remember being asked this by a learning support assistant; she seemed to be genuinely curious, and wanted to know more. If you want common ground, this is pretty much a fail-safe option.
Why? What do you see in it? That same learning support assistant asked me what it was, specifically, what I liked about Jackie Kennedy. (I was writing an essay at the time.) This was one of my favourite memories of college, simply for that, as it allowed me to… well, be me.
Is there anything I could be doing differently? An Autistic person maybe cannot tell you what is wrong; it may be useful to ask directly. It’s so refreshing when I’ve been asked this question, but it’s rare.
Is the sound level okay in here?
How do you hear sound? I met a person the same age as me, yet she is one of the most perceptive people I’ve met. This also lead on to the limits of sound, what I can adapt to, what I can’t adapt to, etc.
What can I look out for, in terms of stress or meltdowns?
Do you stim? This one depends on the person; it may not necessarily be appropriate to ask, but it could be helpful, in opening up a discussion about meltdowns, etc.
What do you think about ….. ? To use the archaic phrase, those of us who are considered ‘high functioning’ are capable of, well, conventional conversation! (I have had many conversations when the thinking has switched, to the other person thinking me not capable, on finding out about my ASD.)
Do you struggle with eye contact? This depends how close you are, as well as if it’s appropriate to ask; personally, I would like to be asked, every now and again, about eye contact. Sometimes I am, sometimes I not, and I find it frustrating when it’s forced.
Are you comfortable? Simple, really.
Is there anything troubling you?
If so, what? Questions should sometimes be asked in the simplest way possible – and options kept to one or the other. So, using this question and the one before it, it could be more productive than the more obscure “how was school?”
Was school/work/your day out good today?
Would you like …… for dinner? See the above question for explanation.
Are you okay?
*Insert ‘normal’ question here.* You know, you can have, well, a conversation with us! If I had a penny for every time the conversation changed to just being about Autism, as soon as I disclosed I have Aspergers Syndrome, I’d be a very rich lady. But you can ask conventional questions!