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Relationships and Autism: Cheering Others On

Updated: May 1, 2020

Individuals on the autism spectrum can be champions when it comes to talking about topics they are interested in. Their attention to the facts and subject matter can be first rate. However, they may struggle to attend to the other people in the conversation. For example, "What does this listener need from me? Does she want to switch topics? Is he confused? Is she bored?"

The ASD individual may also be very passionate about being accurate with facts or about winning a competition or game. This passion can be one more part of focus on topic, detail, and being correct about facts.

One way to help the autistic individual focus a bit more on people may be to tackle the realm of encouragement. Some people on the spectrum just need a cue to focus on relationships by looking for opportunities to say "great job" or "you knocked that one out of the park." They may say, "I just never thought about doing that before. I didn't know that was important."

Others on the spectrum may really struggle to encourage others, particularly if they feel it would suggest that the other person did "better" than they did (such as complimenting the winner of a game). One place to start in this case could be for the individual to encourage someone without admitting fault or loss. For example, saying, "You did great with that" does not need to suggest that the ASD individual did not also do really well. Once that way of encouraging is mastered, the autistic individual may want to challenge himself more by practicing good sportsmanship, graceful losing, and admitting mistakes.

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