“Read my lips, not my body”: the joys and challenges of autistic social communication


9 autistic adults took part in an online, forum-style focus group for two weeks. The primary topics were: (1) people’s ‘social values’, (2) experiences/frustrations interacting with non-autistic people, (3) what made social interactions positive, and (4) a space for ‘anything else’. A thematic analysis produced the following themes: 1) Clear, Honest, Authentic: autistic people placing importance on, and having an expanded definition of, honesty. 2) Invisible Demands: socialisation and communication places a lot of demands on autistic people, many of which are not visible, and the work they do to manage these demands is not seen or appreciated. 3) Empathy & Double Empathy: things that are received as empathy by non-autistic people may not be by autistic people. There is a mutual lack of understanding; autistic people give but often do not receive empathy. 4) Autistic Strengths: the same things that can produce challenges in social communication can also be sources of strength. 5) The Autistic “Tribe”: being around other autistic people is valuable, but autistic communities (especially online) can be difficult.

Aug 22, 2023 12:00 AM
University of Stirling, Stirling, UK
Holly E. A. Sutherland
Holly E. A. Sutherland
Doctoral Candidate