|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.