Hyper Clarity – Speaking Asperguese

I sometimes feel like I have learned how to speak a different language when it comes to interacting with my son. I like to call it Asperguese but I’m not sure anyone else does!

I have over the years learned the art of using more direct and literal sentences because by modifying my own communication style communication has become much easier.

To use the analogy of computer programming – a computer will only do what it has been programmed to do. It will only perform in the way you want it to if you have entered the correct information. Obviously my son is not like a computer but very often misunderstandings that occur are in a large part due to the fact the instruction or question which has been given to him has not been phrased clearly enough, it might be too ambiguous or it might not signal the amount of detail required in his response.

In school settings teachers who have autistic pupils need to place a high level of importance on learning to communicate very clearly when they are instructing autistic pupils. If they don’t ask the right questions they will not get the right answers.

The same could be said of employers of autistic adults.

If the input is inadequate the output won’t be up to scratch either.

Edward has never been keen on homework – but that’s probably not exactly a shocking revelation. He’s always questioned the purpose of it and seen it as a completely pointless exercise as it reduces his time for learning about things which actually interest him.

When it comes to following homework instructions Edward is perfectly happy to go with the interpretation which means he can produce as little work as possible.

In year 7 he had a piece of RS homework which was to answer the question, “Do people feel closer to God when they are in religious buildings?”. I think this question posed all sorts of problems for Edward but he took it at face value as a very simple yes or no type question and so his homework consisted of the word “NO”. That was it. Completed in all of 2 seconds.

I spent ages trying to convince him that the teacher didn’t just want to have a one word answer to the question but he was having none of it.

As far as he was concerned he’d done exactly what the teacher had asked and if she had wanted him to write more she would have explicitly said  so. We couldn’t make him budge on his opinion but after about 45 minutes of discussion he made a small concession and wrote , “No, God is omnipresent” and that was it.

It would have been much more helpful for the teacher to have given a bit more information so that Edward would have had a better chance at producing a piece of work that she wanted him to. Just a few lines more would have helped. Please explain your answer using at least X words or even “Some people feel closer to God when they are in a religious building. Why might they feel like this?”  or even “What do you think people mean when they say that they feel close to God?” .

Even if Edward had been given more information about how much to write I think this piece of homework would have been challenging as it requires putting yourself in someone elses shoes and trying to see things from their perspective and it also involves understanding and explaining abstract concepts which you may not have experience of in your own life. However we’d at least have had a better chance at engaging him in a thinking conversation about his homework if it had been set out differently.

I can see perfectly well why opting for a simple “No” was preferable for Edward.

If you are working with an autistic child and their work output is limited then it’s worth having a good look at the input you’ve provided – have you been specific enough? clear enough? Have all your exact instructions been written down so that the pupil can go back and check that they are on track?

Sometimes you have to use more words to make sure that your instruction is as clear as possible.

If you want some more examples of how to modify your own language so that you communicate as clearly as possible with an autistic pupil I have written a few related posts here:

He’s literally on Fire

Slow down and answer the question

How precise do you have to be?

Are You Being Clear?



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6 thoughts on “Hyper Clarity – Speaking Asperguese

  1. Hahaha, love that – no is a perfect answer as far as that homework goes 😀 I agree with you, I speak a totally different language for my younger girl, and it has taken me years to learn!

  2. Yes, yes and yes! Homework is the bane of our life here – always a massive struggle. He wants to do it as they’re conditioned at school that homework is super important and you get a detention if it’s not done but then at the same time they make it so difficult for him.

    One time he had “Do a fact file about Shakespeare”. Very vague. He actually enjoyed this one so ended up writing about his whole life story, birth, children, moving to london, plays, jobs, own theatre group, own theatre, puritans, problems with plays etc etc etc. A good side of A4 paper typed in font size 12. The teacher’s comment was “I only wanted a few things, I didn’t expect that much”. So why not say “Write 3-5 facts about Shakespeare’s life”?

    Now this has become a rule so other homework his comment is usually “I only need a few lines”.

    Numerous times he’s gone into crisis/meltdown because he doesn’t understand what’s expected for the homework but gets incredibly anxious about being punished if he doesn’t do it. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve written notes in his planner to ask the teacher to clarify exactly what is expected of him… Maybe one day…?!

    • Teachers need to really be clear in why and how they set homework. Have you asked for a face to face meeting with school staff to specifically discuss homework at a time when both you and the teacher can listen carefully to each other? I would definitely want to try a face to face meeting if my written notes to school staff were getting me (and more importantly my child) nowhere. If you decide to ask for a face to face meeting then you might find my post “how to make meetings with school staff work” helpful. http://ablogaboutraisingmyautisticson.com/how-to-make-meetings-with-school-staff-work/ Good luck – I know homework can be a real source of stress and anxiety for both children and parents.

  3. QueerPGH: Do you feel like autistic people are more likely to be queer or vice/versa? Brown: There is actually research from the past several years indicating that autistic people are more likely than the overall population to identify as transgender, including as non-binary, genderqueer, and genderless. I wouldn’t be surprised if autistic people were also more likely than the overall population to identify as queer. Many of us have speculated that because autistic people already face intense ostracism, stigma, shame, and social isolation and exclusion from a young age, that we may either care less about conforming to gender and sexual norms, or be more oblivious to them. I suspect it’s a bit of both, depending on the specific queer or trans autistic person.

    • Interesting question! I have also read that there are a higher percentage of people who identify as queer in the autistic community than in the general population. I think your speculations as to the reasons why are credible.