99 More Questions About Autism

Question mark on wooden floor and marble wall background

Since the first post 99 Questions About Autism was so popular, I took another dive into the Google search terms that send people to this website and pulled out some more questions to answer.

I find it really interesting to see the kinds of things that people want to know about autism. Not what I think people want to know, or even what I think they should want to know, but what they actually ask about. In their own words. It always surprises me, and I think that’s a good thing.

There’s such a wide range of topics, from behaviour to schooling to parenting, from the slightly odd to the stuff about myths or stereotypes. It’s all good, there’s no such thing as a bad question and I hope people keep on doing it. Asking questions is important. Seeking help is important.

So here we go, another 99 questions about autism (again in no particular order but roughly arranged into groups).

Perseveration & rigid thinking

1. What is perseveration?
2. Why do autistic people get stuck on one thing?

Although perseveration isn’t specific to autism, it is one of the defining behaviours and has to do with finding it hard to move on from an activity or action because you’re unable to stop doing it once the situation has changed.

This can also happen with thoughts and ideas, when it becomes difficult to change topics or mentally shift gears – asking the same question over and over or continuing to talk about a subject when the conversation has moved on. It’s also common to get stuck on a particular interest, which then turns into an obsession.

3. What is rigid thinking?
4. How do you help a child who’s a rigid thinker?

Rigid or inflexible thinking happens when a person finds it hard to shift their thoughts (or behaviours or attention) from one topic to another. This makes it hard to find new solutions to a problem or to see things from another point of view.

To help someone who is a rigid thinker, first you need to figure out if it’s causing a problem for them. Perseveration isn’t always bad, it can often be a useful learning strategy. Teach them how their brains and bodies work, help them to identify where a reasonable stopping point is and encourage self-awareness. Redirect them to other activities, and help them shift gears by exaggerating environmental cues. Most of all, be patient and flexible as self-regulation can be difficult to learn.

Want to know more? Check out What’s the Deal With Perseveration and The Lowdown on Literal Thinking.

Special interests

5. How do I deal with my child’s obsessions?
6. How do you help autistic children with obsessions?

Special interests can be hard to handle if you don’t share the interest, but remember that it’s not up to kids to stop involving you in something they enjoy so much, it’s your job to find some way to cope with the fact that you don’t love it too. And that doesn’t mean stopping, ignoring or swapping it for something else that you like better. Instead you can try to:

  • Understand why they love it so much
  • Put rules around how much time they can spend doing it
  • Teach them how to enjoy special interests in a healthy way
  • Help them branch out to include other interests
  • Connect them with other people who enjoy it as much as they do

If you want to learn more about special interests and how to happily coexist with them, read How To Share In Special Interests.

7. Should I stop what my child is obsessed with?

Special interests can be a source of great comfort and joy, so unless the obsession has become disruptive or dangerous (the amount of time spent engaging in it is excessive, it’s interfering with learning or connecting with others, the topic is inappropriate, there are negative health or financial effects) then there’s no need to keep them from enjoying it.

8. Do autistic kids get obsessed with people?

Yes, some people do have special interests which revolve around another person (whether it’s someone they know in real life, a celebrity or fictional character).

Literal thinking

9. Is literal thinking a form of autism?

No, but a lot of autistic people are literal thinkers.

10. How do you deal with an extremely literal child?
11. How do you communicate with a literal thinker?

By saying exactly what you mean, using concrete language and limiting or explaining the use of figurative speech (idioms, metaphors, analogies, hyperbole, sarcasm). Give them lots of context, and point out when you’re asking a question if it isn’t clear.

Want to read more? Check out The Lowdown On Literal Thinking.

Autism at school

12. What do you do when autistic kids make noises in the classroom?

I assume this means vocal stimming, and the real question is “Should I ignore it?”, “How do I reduce the disruption to the classroom” or “How do I explain it to the other kids”.

The answer to the first two depends on why they’re stimming. If it’s a coping mechanism for stress, boredom, confusion or overload then the vocalizations are a way of communicating their distress or discomfort, and should be seen as a sign that something needs to change in the environment or demands that are being placed on them.

If the stimming is being used to seek sensory input then look for less disruptive ways for them to get that input. And if they’re just doing it for fun then schedule in some stimming time when it won’t interfere with class work.

It’s important to explain stimming to the other kids in the class – in the absence of an explanation they’ll come up with their own, and it may not be accurate or even kind. And your reaction to the stimming is important too – if you’re visibly annoyed or worried or upset by the vocalizations then their classmates will assume that the behaviour is bad and something to be apprehensive about.

13. How do I prepare an autistic child for a new teacher?

Give plenty of advance notice of the upcoming change. Use a social story to explain what’s going to happen, and introduce the student to the new teacher ahead of time if possible. Write the new teacher’s name on the board (with a photo) with a date or countdown underneath. Make sure that the new teacher is prepared for their new student too (you might want to check out this guide).

14. How do you help educators know what it’s like to be autistic?

Encourage them to read the words and experiences of people who are autistic.

15. Do kids with autism need class work in advance?

Having extra time to become familiar with a topic before it’s discussed in class can certainly help kids who struggle to keep up or process content in a noisy classroom environment. It will also provide the chance to identify areas where supports might be needed, such as clearer instructions or visual aides – doing this ahead of time means they’re more likely to be available when the student could most benefit from them.

16. How do you avoid homeschool burnout with an Aspergers child?

Burnout is an issue for all homeschooling parents, and it’s something you need to keep an eye on. It helps to get others involved, to remove the pressure to do it all by finding classes or groups or mentors who can share some of the load. Take breaks from homeschooling, get out of the house and find others who can help you teach.

17. How can you homeschool when you feel inadequate?

For some reason parents are made to feel that they don’t have what it takes to teach their own children, but here’s the secret about what kids need to be able to learn – someone who’s interested in helping them do that. As a parent you’re hard-wired to teach your kids – you did it before they went to school, right? And in actual fact you’re already teaching them all the time, every day. It’s a great time to be homeschooling, there’s a ton of resources available to help you and people going through the same thing.

Sensory stuff

18. Do autistic children play with their hair?

Some kids who seek out sensory input can really enjoy smelling their hair, running it through their fingers, and tasting or even chewing on it. It’s a handy fidget, or tool for stress relief.

Hair can also be extremely irritating for some, who might feel the need to brush it away from their face, and wearing it tied back can cause uncomfortable pressure and sensations that are relieved by pulling or playing with it.

19. What is a sensory cocoon?

It’s a place where someone can seek refuge from sensory overload. There are some handy tips for making a quick sensory cocoon in Make a Sensory Cocoon in 60 Seconds.

20. Do children with autism smell people’s bottoms?
21. Why do autistic kids sniff their food?
22. Why do kids with autism lick their toys?

Some autistic kids have disruptions in the way their bodies process sensory information – they might be more sensitive to sensation than others (e.g. they’re able to detect smells that other people can’t) or they’re less sensitive and need extra input to stimulate their senses.

23. How can you help autistic children with sensitive hearing?

Earphones, headphones and ear plugs can all provide some measure of protection against noise, as well as sound buffering measures such as lower ceilings and using carpets and rugs to cover floors.

Note that it’s not just the volume that can make sounds uncomfortable for hypersensitive kids, it can often be the pitch too – high pitched things like bells and sirens, or very low pitched humming from appliances.

Play skills

24. Why do autistic children like to play with older children?

This isn’t true for all kids, some like to play with younger children and some of course like to play with their peers. But older children and adults can be preferred company because they’re often more stable, predictable and consistent in their responses and interactions. They tend to have more patience and control over their emotions than younger kids, are less likely to be influenced by peer pressure, and have more knowledge in advanced or niche topics of interest.

All of these things can add up to make the social experience more comfortable and just a little less daunting.

25. Do autistic children try to play with other kids?
26. Do autistic kids want to play with others?

Yes, sometimes. It’s a myth that autistic kids don’t want others to participate in play. They may not yet know how, as it can take them a little longer to develop cooperative play skills. They can also find playing with others daunting, overwhelming, difficult, confusing or stressful. Figuring out how to join someone else’s game or asking them to play is really difficult, especially at an age where their peers are also trying to figure out how to interact socially.

So choosing to play alone can be more about getting a break from something that’s hard or uncomfortable, instead of wanting to be unsociable or simply not trying. Cooperative play is a complex skill, one that requires mutual communication and a good understanding of social rules, so autistic kids might need support to make it happen in a way that’s fun or rewarding for them.

Want to read more? Check out How To Help Autistic Kids With Play.

27. How do autistic children play with cars?

In all the same ways that non-autistic kids do, and maybe some ways that aren’t traditionally considered ‘play’. They might enjoy watching the wheels spin or how it feels rolling up and down their arm. They might like to watch it moving towards their eyes as they lie with their head on the floor, or using their peripheral vision.

Lining them up in a row can be fun or soothing for some, and others find amusement stacking them away into a box or making cool sounds by throwing them on the floor. And then of course there are a whole bunch of kids (autistic or not) who just don’t find cars appealing.

28. How does playing with playdough help an autistic child’s physical development?

All that rolling and squeezing and pinching is a great way to exercise the muscles of the hand and develop fine motor skills. These help to improve coordination, which is often challenging for autistic kids (strong muscles are easier to control) – playdough is especially good for improving bilateral coordination (getting both hands to work together). It’s also handy for warming up the finger muscles ahead of activities like handwriting and using scissors.

Celebrations

29. How can you make Christmas fun for autistic kids?
30. Why don’t autistic kids like birthday parties?
31. Why does my nephew hide when I visit?

Celebrations and big family gatherings can be overloading or hard to handle for some autistic people. These are some things that can make celebrations not fun:

  • Surprises
  • The change to routine
  • New foods and smells
  • More people in the house or visiting other houses with lots of people
  • Music playing in the background
  • High-pitched sounds like bells
  • Waiting to open or assemble gifts
  • New clothes which can be scratchy or smell different

Here’s how you can make some of those things better:

  • Kids who don’t like surprises might prefer gifts to be unwrapped
  • Kids who love to tear things might prefer extra wrapping
  • Stick to the regular bedtime and morning routines
  • Include their favourite foods
  • Make sure there’s a space to retreat to when things get overwhelming, like a quiet bedroom, a sensory cocoon or tent
  • Use a visual schedule to countdown to the day
  • Assemble toys before wrapping them

Want to read more? Check out Autism & The Holidays: Gift Giving and Autism & The Holidays: Visitors and Visiting. There are also lots of tips in the free download called Autism Friendly Celebrations.

Meltdowns

32. How do I know if I’m having a meltdown?

They’re different for everyone but usually happen in escalating stages that build towards a shutdown or explosion, where it feels like your body is overwhelmed and trying to escape. You might find it hard to talk or concentrate, and experience physical reactions like your heart racing or a buzzing in your ears. I wrote about what a meltdown feels like for me.

33. What do I do when I’m about to have a meltdown?

When you hit the point where you know that a meltdown is imminent, stay calm and keep things simple – reduce the demands that your body has to process, go somewhere quiet, put on some headphones, turn down the lights, stop talking, try to limit the number of things you’re doing at once.

34. What do you do after a meltdown?

The post-meltdown stage is about recovery and regaining control. Although the explosion or shutdown part is over, there can still be intense emotions as well as exhaustion. Return to structure and routine, find calming activities, maybe a drink or a nap. Later you can talk or think about what happened to look for solutions to prevent future meltdowns, but for now it’s about helping the body to restore itself.

35. Do autism meltdowns go away?
36. Do autistic adults learn how to prevent meltdowns?

Since meltdowns are caused by an imbalance between demands and coping reserves, the conditions that trigger them can exist for a lifetime. As people get better at understanding the kinds of situations and environments that create extra demand or reduce their ability to cope, they can avoid them and hopefully experience less meltdowns.

Learning to recognize the signs that a meltdown is in progress also means that you can take preventative action before it escalates. But these conditions aren’t always avoidable or under our control, so it’s not always going to be possible to prevent meltdowns completely.

37. What’s the difference between a meltdown and a tantrum?

There really isn’t an easy answer, sometimes it can be very difficult to tell. The key is to understand what meltdowns are and how they happen – they’re not power struggles or demands for attention, they’re involuntary physiological reactions to being in a situation which is overwhelming. So kids who are having one will usually be trying to relieve the tension or escape the situation in some way. They often seem scared, anxious or uncomfortable and it might be difficult for them to communicate what it is that they need or why they’re so upset.

Kids throwing a tantrum might also do a lot of these same things, but have much greater control over their behavior – they can stop crying to check if anyone’s paying attention, they can communicate ultimatums. It’s easier to understand exactly what they want and why they’re upset about not getting it because a tantrum is a performance, not a reaction.

38. Why do kids with autism meltdown over making mistakes?

A lot of autistic people find mistakes incredibly frustrating, and frustration is a frequent meltdown trigger. Perfectionism is a common autistic trait, because rigid thinking can make it hard to find the ‘good enough’ point that allows you to stop and move on to something else. Being able to pick up detail means that mistakes are noticed more easily, and some kids get very stressed by the change from what was supposed to happen.

There’s a lot of social stress involved with making mistakes too. All of these things can create the kinds of emotional and cognitive overload that can trigger a meltdown.

Want to read more? Check out Autism and Perfectionism.

Emotions

39. How can you help children with autism to explain how they feel?

Give them labels to identify their emotions and help them to connect it to the way their body is reacting. Teach them clues to identify different emotions in themselves. Encourage them to express their feelings, and help them to trust in the way they feel by always respecting and validating their emotions.

40. Do autistic people have emotions?
41. Do people with autism have empathy?
42. Why don’t autistic kids say I love you?

This is a common and unsettling myth about autism, that autistic people are unfeeling or unable to care about how someone else is feeling. It’s completely and totally false. Autistic people have as wide a range of emotions as anyone else, and can feel incredibly strong empathy. They may have trouble identifying and expressing how they feel however, but that’s not the same thing as not feeling at all.

Some autistic children find saying ‘I love you’ difficult, because emotions can be hard to pin down and label… and love isn’t exactly a clear concept. Is it the way you feel about your favourite train or the way it feels when your dad is waiting for you after school? Or a feeling so strong that no words can do it justice?

‘I love you’ is also a phrase that’s loaded with nuance and expectation, hidden rules and social contracts. So if you’re someone who struggles with communication and social understanding, those three little words become incredibly difficult to navigate successfully. And literal thinkers might not see the point in telling you something that you already know. So really the issue is not whether they say it but noticing and accepting the love that is shared with you, no matter what form it comes in.

You can read more about autism and emotions in Autism and Expressions of Love.

Wandering

43. Why do kids with autism just want to walk off?
44. Why do autistic kids run away?

Running or walking off from where they’re supposed to be is called wandering or elopement. There’s a big difference between running away and running towards though, and both of these things happen for different reasons.

Running away is often a reaction to being afraid, uncomfortable, overloaded, confused or in pain. There are lots of reasons why they might run towards something too, such as seeking out the things that they’re fascinated or obsessed with, losing track of where they’re meant to be, not understanding the boundaries of where they’re allowed to be, not recognizing dangers to avoid and trouble communicating where they want to go.

Want to read more? Check out What’s The Deal With Wandering.

Echolalia

45. Why do autistic children memorize movies?

This is called echolalia, and it’s a way of communicating, dealing with stress, having fun or processing language.

46. Do all babies use echolalia too?

Yes, echolalia is a phase in typical speech development.

47. When is scripting useful?
48. What does echolalia mean when scared or nervous?
49. Why is he echolalic in certain situations but not others?

Echolalia is always useful because it always has a purpose, especially as a form of communication. It’s often used to start conversations or fill in the gaps, to ask for something or to express an intense emotion for which there is no label. It can also be used as a stim when nervous, bored or in pain, or an emotional buffer against the anxiety of sharing your thoughts with another person.

Understanding these different functions of echolalia is essential for interpreting why it’s being used in a particular situation, such as when scared or nervous – often these are times of heightened emotion and an urgent need to be understood.

50. How do you make choices with an echolalic child?

One of the problems you can run into with kids who are echolalic is that they might be repeating an option back to you rather than actually choosing it – you ask “Do you want juice or milk?” and they say “milk” even though they want the juice.

This can be really frustrating for them and confusing for you, since they get really upset even though you gave them the thing that they ‘chose’. You can check if this is happening by presenting the choices again in a different order. They might also repeat the question and all of the choices too, which again is frustrating for everybody. So using visual choices instead can help to avoid this kind of confusion (put the options on the table in front of them, use a choice board or picture exchange).

Want to read more? Check out Understanding Echolalia.

Health and medical care

51. Do people with autism feel pain?

Absolutely, but it may not be experienced or communicated in typical ways. Sensory integration issues can both increase and decrease sensitivity to pain, muddle up pain signals with other body sensations, and cause sensations to quickly change over time and environments.

Perseveration can channel attention onto the discomfort which is difficult to disengage from, so that even mild levels of pain can be distressing, while at other times intense focus can block the perception of pain signals.

52. What pain relief works for autistic people?

This is a really interesting question, one that I don’t have the answer to. I don’t know that there’s any physiological reason why standard pain relief wouldn’t work in the same way for autistic people, but getting an accurate estimation of the pain and injury can often be difficult which makes finding effective pain relief problematic.

53. Do autistic people get depressed?

Yes many autistic people report feeling this way at some point, and of course being autistic doesn’t preclude someone from developing a mental health disorder (or any other health condition for that matter).

Want to read more? Check out 7 Important Ways That Autism Can Impact Medical Care.

Diagnosis

54. Who writes DSM and ICD?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM) is written by the American Psychiatric Association. The International Classification of Diseases (ICD) is written by the World Health Organisation.

55. Why is there both a DSM and ICD?

Because they’re written by different organizations for different purposes. The DSM focuses on mental health and was originally a manual for collecting data for the census and hospitals, whereas the ICD has a much wider scope (covering all diseases and health-related conditions) and was originally used to record the incidence of disease and mortality.

56. What does qualitative impairment mean?

It means that there’s a problem with the way a behaviour is performed, not just whether it happens or how often.

57. When was autism included in DSM and ICD?
58. How long has autism been diagnosed?

Autism was first included as a separate diagnostic category in DSM III in 1980 (as ‘infantile autism’, before that time it was included under childhood schizophrenia). It was first included in ICD-9 in 1978 as ‘infantile autism’ under the higher category of Psychosis (it was later renamed ‘childhood autism’ and moved to the Pervasive Developmental Disorders category with the publication of ICD-10 in 1991).

59. What is the severity scale in DSM 5?

One of the major changes in the DSM 5 was to include a new scale for rating the severity of the Autism Spectrum Disorder. The three levels of severity are Requiring support, Requiring substantial support, Requiring very substantial support.

60. Does Australia use DSM or ICD?

Predominantly DSM.

61. What were Asperger people in the 80s diagnosed with?

Asperger’s Syndrome wasn’t included in the DSM until the early 90’s, so before that time we can only make assumptions. It’s likely that prior to this time, people who would have been diagnosed with Asperger’s under DSM-IV would have either been undiagnosed or diagnosed with something else – perhaps Autistic Disorder or PDD-NOS, or even other disorders like depression.

62. Does PDD-NOS exist in DSM-5?

No, it is no longer a separate diagnosis.

Want to read more? Check out The DSM 5 Changes.

Other stuff

63. Why do some autistic people wear the same outfit everyday?

The short answer: Because it makes them feel good.

The slightly longer answer: For people with sensory issues, a lot of clothes are just plain uncomfortable or unappealing to wear – tags and seams rub against the skin, long/short pants make legs feel strange, some fabrics are noisy and others have an unpleasant smell… there can be lots of reasons why a particular set of clothes just feel better to wear.

Other people find comfort in having routines and wearing the same clothes can be part of that. Making choices and planning ahead can also be difficult, so picking out a different outfit can be stressful for them. And lastly, shopping for new clothes can be a very uncomfortable, overloading and even frightening experience for some people.

64. Why do autistic children knock things over?
65. Why are kids with autism so clumsy?

Autistic kids can have problems with dyspraxia (a movement and coordination disorder), low muscle tone, motor planning and proprioception (sensing where your body is in space) – all of these things can sometimes make it tough to make your body go where you want it to, do what it’s supposed to and avoid the objects around you in the process.

And because we live in a world which places high value on physical achievements – athletes are revered, motor milestones are measured from birth and most of our school work is based around how well we can use our bodies – these kids are often made to feel like they don’t measure up. So please, don’t call them clumsy.

66. Why do autistic people tear things up?

Lots of people like to rip paper and stuff that can be torn into pieces like wallpaper, books and clothing, but it probably stands out for autistic kids because they can have a tendency to perseverate long past the point that other kids have gotten bored with it. Ripping stuff up can fill a variety of needs – it’s fun, there’s sensory input, it reduces anxiety and stress, it’s something to do with your hands when you’re reading… as far as repetitive actions go it can feel really good.

If it’s causing problems for you, make sure that they’re getting plenty of sensory input if that’s what they’re seeking. Give them designated things that they’re allowed to rip and let them indulge – old phone books, junk mail, used magazines. Make it into an activity you can do together, like making a collage or mosaic or paper mache. For stuff that you don’t want them to rip, keep it out of the way, laminate or insert it into plastic sleeves or give them a fidget toy to occupy their hands while reading.

67. Why do autistic kids hug everyone?

For some kids, hugging can be a wonderful source of deep pressure sensory stimulation. Other kids might have difficulty understanding social norms and boundaries about when and who it’s appropriate to hug. And then there are plenty of other autistic people who avoid hugs because they find them to be overloading in an emotional or sensory way.

68. Do Asperger kids make an eeeeeeee sound?

I don’t even know where to start with this one.

69. What is social scripting?

Social scripts are a way to role-play and practice some of the typical social scenarios you might encounter, and the skills needed to successfully navigate them – starting conversations, taking turns, ordering food at a restaurant. They’re also useful for learning the ‘rules’ of social situations, as well as providing a safe environment for figuring out how to deal with difficult situations like being bullied or left out of a group.

Social scripts are most effective when they focus on teaching how to handle the situation rather than providing the actual words to say. I often use Minecraft to work on social scripts with my kids.

70. Why do autistic kids want everything to go their way?
71. Why do autistic kids have a meltdown when they don’t get what they want?

Order and consistency is an extremely important way that some autistic people make sense of their environment. Not having control over that environment can result in confusion, frustration and even pain, and these are powerful reasons for wanting to ‘get your own way’. Manipulating the surroundings can be an attempt to get relief, understanding, protection, safety and security.

So if they’re pushing for control, that’s usually when they feel most vulnerable and insecure.

72. What are some assumptions for autistic children and social skills?

Well if we’re talking about incorrect assumptions…

  • They don’t have any social skills
  • They don’t want friends
  • They can’t make friends
  • They don’t know how to make friends
  • They talk about boring subjects
  • They lack empathy

All of these are incorrect myths about autism.

73. Is it okay to say autistic?

Yes.

74. How do you manage a long-haul flight with an autistic child?

Every kid is going to struggle on a plane trip that’s over five hours long. I’ve done over a dozen of these with my kids, some of them upwards of 16 hours each, and they’re doable with a little preparation.

  • Practice before you fly so that things on the plane will seem a little familiar
  • Visit an airport before you leave to expose them to new sights and sounds while you’re relaxed and not carrying loads of bags
  • Learn rules about sitting in your seat and wearing the seatbelt
  • Talk about the fact that sometimes flights get delayed (and be prepared for that)
  • Bring plenty of their favourite foods, even if you’ve ordered a special meal
  • Don’t flush the toilet while they’re standing next to it (it’s super scary)
  • Pack some surprise toys or gifts
  • Put them in pajamas or similarly comfy clothes for the flight

And lastly, manage your expectations – it’s going to be tough and things will go wrong but you will make it, especially if you remember this one thing… you’re never going to see the people sitting around you again.

75. How do you help a child with autism share their day?

It can be frustrating to pick your kids up from school and not get any idea of how the day has been, but there might be a few reasons why your questions are going unanswered. Not everyone categorizes and sorts their experiences based on time, which makes a question like “what did you do today” difficult to answer. It’s also not a specific enough question for literal thinkers – do you want to hear about when they woke up or the sandwich they ate at lunch or getting in the car just now? And why do you want to know?

It’s can be difficult for some kids to make a judgement about experiences that aren’t either really good or really bad, and most school days fall in between those two. So try asking a more specific question, or stick to facts rather than feelings. Share your day first to model the answer (“I ate a tuna sandwich for lunch, it was really yummy. What did you eat?”)

76. Why don’t special needs parents take respite breaks?

Okay a lot of parents are laughing at this one, but it’s actually a serious question for two important reasons – many people don’t understand why respite can be so hard to get, and there are a lot of us who don’t put the effort into making it a priority precisely because it is so hard and elusive.

So why can respite be so hard to find and/or take? Because it’s expensive, it’s hard to find people who are experienced in special needs and not everyone has family living close by, and we never think we need it until it’s too late to find someone. Many of us would probably opt to sleep if we got the chance for a break.

So most of the time, the effort to get respite outweighs the benefit of actually having it.

77. Do people with autism make less money?

It’s widely reported that autistic people have more trouble getting and/or keeping a job, but there really isn’t a lot of hard evidence to back up the statistics that are often cited. That being said, the workplace can present many challenges for people with autism and you’d be hard-pressed to find employers who understand or make provisions to support these kinds of challenges.

78. Why should you not use big words for autistic children?

The problem is not so much the size of the words you use, but what types and how many of them you use at once. There’s a bunch of things that can interfere with the way sounds and language are processed (being distracted or overly attentive on something else, literal thinking, hypersensitivities, delays in auditory processing, difficulties with comprehension), so the best way to help them interpret your instructions is to use short phrases or sentences with concrete language.

79. Why are special needs parents so stubborn and angry?

Hmm. Please read this… Yes, I Am One Of Those Parents.

80. How can you get an autistic child to understand no?

No is an abstract concept which can be hard to understand because it’s not a tangible thing that you can see. The word itself can have a lot of different meanings:

  • You can’t have that
  • You’re wrong
  • Stop doing that
  • You did something bad

Autistic kids can often have a strong emotional reaction to the word, because it can feel like a rejection, a roadblock in the way of getting what they need or having control, and without an explanation of what’s going to happen next. So you need to make a clear calm connection between the concepts of ‘no’ and ‘stop’, without overusing the word or triggering emotional overload. It might be better to stick to positive and tangible concepts like ‘yes, later’ and focusing on what to do rather than what not to do.

81. How do I get my child that has autism to accept our new dog?

Pets can provide a lot of fun and companionship, but they can also be loud, smelly and unpredictable. The flurry of changes that come with the arrival of a new pet can be hard to cope with too – there may be new pieces of furniture or parts of the house that become off-limits, and new rules and routines to adjust to, so it can take some time for kids to become okay with all of that.

The acceptance process needs to happen gradually, ideally before the pet has moved in, but that’s not always going to be possible. Introduce them on their own terms – don’t force them to hold or pet the animal, especially if they’re frightened. Treat any anxieties or fears seriously, and help them to understand and predict the new animal’s behaviour – e.g. dogs wag their tail when they’re happy. Teach them how to interact with the pet in a safe way, to protect both their safety and that of the animal. Give it time, take it slow.

82. Do autistic children talk in an orderly way?

Some kids do have a tendency towards using big words and a more formal style when they speak, for different reasons – they enjoy the sounds of these words, they like to follow grammatical rules precisely, they’re repeating things that they’ve heard or read or they haven’t gotten the hang of changing their speech in different contexts. But there are also plenty of autistic people who don’t talk this way.

83. Why do kids with Aspergers use big unusual words?

There are lots of reasons why some kids like to use language that seems complex for their age – those words can sound good or be fun to say, they like the mental pictures it invokes, they know them because they read a lot, they’re literal thinkers using the correct word or label for something, or they don’t realize how using big and unusual words can sometimes interfere with making yourself understood.

Want to read more? Check out Little Professors and Big Words.

84. What are ways to spend time with an autistic child?

Well… what do they like to do? There’s almost certainly a way for you to share in that activity, in a way that’s not overwhelming or uncomfortable for them. Lie on the floor next to them and make your own line of toy cars. Watch a documentary on their favourite topic. Have a chat session over Skype or play a video game or rip up paper together.

85. Why don’t kids with autism ask for help?
86. How do you learn to ask for help?

It can be difficult for some autistic people to know when they need help and how to get it. It’s not always easy to identify when a situation has turned into a problem, and whether you need (or want) help to fix it. There may have been bad experiences seeking help in the past, they might be confused about who to ask for help and how and when, and there could be communication barriers that are preventing them getting the assistance they need.

There’s a lot more to asking for help than just figuring out whether you have a problem. You need to be able to articulate it, figure out whether you already know the solution, decide if you can resolve it yourself and know who to get assistance from. You can read more in the article Learning How To Ask For Help.

87. What’s a list of things autistic people need help with?

Autistic people have as wide a range of abilities, strengths and needs as anyone else (and these can vary over time), so each person has a different set of situations in which they cope, excel or need support. So it’s not useful (and even dangerous) to address ‘autistic needs’ as a one-size-fits-all approach.

A list of areas in which they might need help could include:

88. How do you transition children with autism from a computer?
89. How do you transition a kid who doesn’t want to stop an activity?
90. How does a weighted object help a child transition?

Helping kids move between activities without stress is about making the gap between them smaller, easier to navigate, predictable and less scary. Holding on to something familiar can make new stuff less scary, and the sensory input can be calming. There are lots of tips for how to do this in the article mentioned below.

Want to read more? Check out 18 Tips To Make Transitions Easier.

91. What are ways to help autistic kids relax?

Since everybody’s body works in a unique way, we all have different things that make us feel tense… and consequently different things that help us to relax. Some of those things might include:

  • Reducing sensory input – turn down lights and keep things quiet
  • Providing sensory input – deep pressure through weighted vests and blankets, fidget toys, things that vibrate, water play
  • Soothing sounds or visuals (a bubble tube, spinning lights)
  • Stimming
  • Special interests and rituals
  • Deep breathing, meditation and yoga
  • Predictability and routine
  • Increased personal space

And the most important tip – having people around you who are calm and relaxed too.

92. What are visual supports for autism?

Some autistic people find that they can understand or process information more easily when it’s presented in visual form – a daily schedule that shows blocks of time, sign language, captions on a video.

93. Am I doing the right thing sticking to a schedule for an autistic child?

Many autistic people find the structure of a schedule to be comforting. Some kids can react strongly to off-schedule changes though, and become upset or disoriented when things don’t go according to plan… which can make caregivers question whether using the schedule is making them too dependent and less flexible.

But kids who cling to routines are looking for signposts amidst the chaos – removing those signposts won’t help them to become more flexible. They need stress and anxiety levels to be low before they can cope with change and unpredictability, and it’s only then that you can start to work on developing flexibility.

94. Why do autistic kids line things up?
95. Why does my son line up toy cars?
96. Why do kids with autism like to stack things?

Creating order by lining, sorting or stacking things can be a comforting and fun thing to do for autistic people of all ages, not just kids. The reasons for this are many and varied:

  • Things look better that way
  • It helps with visual processing and spatial orientation
  • It makes them feel safe
  • They enjoy the repetition and predictability
  • It reduces anxiety
  • It helps to make sense of the world or organize thoughts
  • It’s just something to do when they’re not sure what an object can be used for

97. Why do autistic kids freak out about making decisions?
98. Why can’t my son with autism choose things?
99. How do you help autistic children to choose an activity?

Choices can be really difficult for a lot of autistic people. To help, you can start off by understanding why choosing can be hard for them. Then you can try supports like:

  • Present a manageable number of options to choose from
  • Make those options visual and tangible (using a choice board is good)
  • Keep your language simple
  • Use nonverbal prompts where possible
  • Let them communicate their choice non-verbally if they want (by pointing or picking it up)
  • Give them plenty of time to choose

More questions!

If your question isn’t answered here, check out part 1 of this article called 99 Questions About Autism.

Last updated 22 Nov, 2017 by Bec Oakley

Bec Oakley is an autistic writer and proud parent, with an intense passion for 80s text adventures, Twizzlers and making the world a better place for autistic people and their families.