85% of the community has a personal connection with an autistic person – whether it’s a family member, friend, colleague or neighbour.
If you know an autistic person, you can make a huge difference for them and the autism community just by making small changes to your behaviour.
Every autistic person experiences the world differently – so what works in communication or social interaction for an autistic person you know might not work for someone else. Respect every individual’s needs.
Offer help once
You might recognize the signs of sensory overwhelm or a meltdown. Politely ask the person if there is something you can do to help – but respect their right to say no, and don’t ask more than once.
If you see someone behaving ‘differently’, carry on with your own business. Even if it feels like you’re being subtle, chances are an autistic person knows you’re staring – and it can be really uncomfortable, especially if they’re coping with sensory overload or a meltdown.
Talk directly to the person
Not all autistic people speak, but you should still speak to them! If an autistic person is non-speaking or doesn’t make eye contact, talking to them (not to their carer or parent) is a simple way to show them the respect they deserve.
Give them time to process information
Autistic people are often aware of many more things happening around them than non-autistic people – so they might need more time to answer questions or process instructions.
Give them space to stim
Some autistic people repeat behaviours or movements to keep themselves calm – this is called ‘stimming’. Everyone stims differently, but you could carry around a commonly used sensory toy, like a tub of putty, to offer the autistic people in your life when they need to stim.
Understand their needs
The best thing you can do to support an autistic person is to get to know them. When they share information about their needs and challenges, really listen and ask how you can support them.
Respect their choices
Remember that every autistic individual has their own way of talking about their autism and communicating their needs – be supportive by letting them share in their own way.
Make changes to the environment
Because you know an autistic person, you might be familiar with some common sensory sensitivities – put that knowledge to use by adjusting light levels, reducing noise volume and creating quiet areas to make more inclusive work spaces.