Thank you for your interest, advocacy, and support as a friend or ally of neurodiverse and ASD individuals. We encourage the use of positive identity-first language to describe autism as a campus community. For example, it is best to ask individuals for their preference, or observe how they refer to themselves. This preference will take precedence over any generalized suggestions you may hear.
We also encourage friends, allies, and classmates to recognize the vast abilities and talents of their loved ones. Below are some considerations for supporting your friends and classmates who may identify as neurodiverse or autistic:
- Be patient – practice sensitivity by recognizing both an individual’s challenges and abilities is important to having a successful relationship
- Discuss their interests – individuals enjoy most talking about topics we feel connected to personally. Ask questions about things you’ve heard mentioned in conversation before.
- Communicate clearly – be specific about your questions or requests in conversations to ensure the correct details in a conversation are understood.
- Respect sensory differences – neurodiverse and autistic students are often sensitive to sounds, sights, touch, taste, and/or smells. Respect the sensory differences, even if they may be hard to understand. Avoid doubting or questioning someone’s knowledge of their own body and experience.
- Understand differences in conversation – you may notice a lack of eye contact, motor tics, difficulty with turn-taking in conversations, or a lack of understanding of personal boundaries. These can be common challenges for neurodiverse and ASD students and is likely not reflective of your contribution to a conversation.
- Don’t assume intellectual disability – many neurodiverse and ASD individuals have average to high levels of intelligence and may excel in traditionally difficult subjects.
- Stand up for them– bullying can be prevalent in the current or past lives of neurodiverse or autistic individuals. Take a stand if you see someone being teased or picked on. Working to end systemic ableism that isolates individuals and normalizes aggression ultimately benefits everyone.