Updated: May 1
"I want everyone to be okay. But I don't know what I'm supposed to do!"
Many on the autism spectrum emphasize that they want to be kind and good toward others. "It's not that I don't care what people are feeling. I just don't know what to do about it."
One woman explained, "I know if someone dies, I should send the family a sympathy card. If a coworker is crying, she's probably sad. I know stuff like that. But then what?"
In my work with autistic adults, I find that one of the most straight forward and effective things is to teach them to ask "What do you need?" or "I want to be here for you. What can I do?"
These simple questions communicate the desire to be helpful. Sometimes this is the most important part of a supportive communication anyway. "I want to be here for you..."
Also, if the situation impacting the other person is not one that quickly resolves, keep asking the same question. If someone is entering a season of struggle (e.g., death of a loved one, life changing health problem, loss of a job) ask more than once over time.
Sometimes we don't need to know what to do. We just need to ask.