Healthy Living

Communicating with Those Who Have Autism: A Reminder for Healthcare Professionals

5. People with autism can have unique methods of communication during times of stress

Communication is key. But it’s also very challenging because people with autism may not look like they understand even if they do. Don’t assume anything.

Autistic people can have unique ways of communicating. There are three that all healthcare professionals should know.

The first is echolalia, which is the term for someone who echoes things that someone else, such as you, has just said.

Second is stimming, which refers to the physically repetitive motion that some autistic people use to soothe themselves when they feel strong emotion.

Lastly, scripting is when an autistic person repeats quotes from outside sources. This is a coping mechanism autistic people use to express themselves when they can’t find the words to do it. When this happens, asking caregivers can be very helpful. They might know what specific “scripts” usually represent. For example, they could be quoting a family member who was in pain or a TV character who was tired and wanted to go home.

If the patient has trouble answering your questions, try asking them again in a variety of different ways. You can also try to simplify questions into a yes or no answer. Don’t be surprised either if they have trouble making their own responses. For example, they might echo back “or no” in response to your question of “yes or no?”.