Monday, April 6, 2015

Autism Acceptance Challenge 5: Slow Down

Slow. Down. 
Square Talk: Processing originally posted here in 2009

If you are not autistic, work on including autistic people in your conversations, especially when you are talking in a group. This does not mean trying to force anyone into conversing. Please don’t do that. “Interviewing” is probably a bad approach unless you know the person likes that. What I am asking you to do is to slow down. Pause. Leave spaces between your sentences. Listen.

Possibly, the conversation will feel somewhat unnatural to you. There may be stretches of silence. Accept this as part of the conversation. Have some paper and pens nearby. Even Autistics who use speech to communicate may have more to express through writing, drawing, or other methods. Maybe you will too.

What if the autistic person in your life does not use speech to communicate? The same rules still apply. Slowing down your interactions allows everyone extra time to process. Learn the language in which the person communicates best. Skype, IM, or email your conversation if that works better. Be open to the conversations that happen without words.

As you pause, if you are afraid you will forget what you wanted say, jot down a note to say it later. I do this. Other autistic people I know do this. Give it a try. Also, it is probably not going to hurt you to accidentally leave something unsaid.

The key to this is to be open, but non-intrusive. Your conversational partner may not respond in the ways you hope. Keep leaving space, but don’t fill it with expectations.

What if the autistic person in your life talks a lot, and you are thinking, well he or she is the one that needs to slow down! Slow yourself down anyway. Think about what the person is really saying to you. Even if you've heard all this before, don’t tune the person out. Respond authentically.

Leave a comment here about slowing down.

You have the rest of April to complete this challenge. No rush.

If you are autistic, leave a comment about a time you were well included in a group conversation. If this has never happened for you, forward this post to someone who needs to know. Come back and let me know what happened. 


  1. I've found that "slowing down" is not only the best way to make the other party feel more at ease, but it's just plain the considerate thing to do.

    I know personally, from communicating with my wife, that it's much easier for her to follow along and for us to have a meaningful conversation if I incorporate pauses, allow stretches of silence, and by repeating myself when asked. To be perfectly honest I've probably been not the best at doing this in the past, and was often left wondering why so little of what I said was acknowledged or recalled later on. But since working more on changing the way I converse (which isn't an inconvenience at all) in a few small ways I'd like to think there has been a very positive difference.

    1. Thanks! Glad to hear the benefits to both of you.

  2. I felt included in a conversation on Sunday with my in-laws. It helps that they are easy going and animal lovers like me. I prefer conversation over text whenever possible, though. -Jennifer V.

  3. I talk slow - it's my nature. This slow talking is very hard for some folks, ones who process very, very fast. Sorry.

  4. I talk fast but I am learning to talk slow so that I can listen to the conversation and not dominate it instead and also so that people can see me as me and not a non-stop talking machine it's not always easy with your talking style but you can learn to adapt

  5. Thanks for your insight on this, Kelsey.

  6. Last week, I spoke on the phone with the assistant principal at a local primary school for autistic kids, to see about volunteering and maybe building bridges with the adult community.

    During that phone conversation, I mentioned I was autistic. I heard her pause and her conversation style changed. I thought, oh no, has she just put me in the "other" bin? We set an appointment for a meeting. I was nervous.

    But when we met today, I realized she hadn't "othered" me at all. She had simply slowed down, intentionally. As she did during our meeting. She left a lot of space. I did too.

    It went really well, we got along, and we talked about plans and presuming competence and the school system.

  7. can I borrow the square talk graphic for a presentation on sensory-motor supports for ASD I am giving in April?


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