7 Tips To Work Respectfully With Autistic Adults

I’ve worked with several families over the past 2 decades.

Some of my students have been with SAI/SAI Connections for more than a decade.


I’ve had the privilege of seeing them blossom before my eyes.

And many of them are adults now.


The phrase which comes to mind when I work with adults is- “Pure Joy.”


If you would like to experience pure joy while engaging with adults on the spectrum too, do consider the following.


  1. Build a relationship of trust


Just like every other relationship, trust is the key ingredient here too.


I don’t work with my students regularly. I conduct assessments and test out hypotheses once in a while.


But when we work together, there is no hesitancy or unwillingness between us. This is because a relationship of trust has been built over the years.


They know if I’ve promised them something, I will follow through.


They also trust me enough to know I won’t push them over the edge.

I often find myself saying, “I’m with you and trust me, I won’t push you over the edge.”


They know I’m there to bail them out, if the need arises.


“For autistic individuals to succeed in this world, they need to find their strengths and the people that will help them get to their hopes and dreams. In order to do so, ability to make and keep friends is a must. Amongst those friends, there must be mentors to show them the way. A supportive environment where they can learn from their mistakes is what we as a society needs to create for them,”


– Bill Wong, Autistic Occupational Therapist


  1. Connect via emotions


Feel your own emotions when you’re with them.

Feel the joy and happiness of connection.


One of my students, Aashni, repeatedly reminds me of this.


“Kamini happy?” she asks. By saying this, she brings me immediately to the present moment.


When I do bring myself back, she rewards me amply by saying, “I love Kamini.”


Her message is poignant. Much more than the simple words she uses.


When you’re with some body on the spectrum- connect joyfully.


“Connection is what moves this world forward. Connection is a profound human experience,”


–  Jenny Palmiotto


  1. Slow down to connect visually


Over the years, I’ve become accustomed to a strange phenomenon.

We often hear about eye contact and people on the spectrum not looking at others.


My assessments show that parents don’t connect visually with their children (or adults) either.


It’s about reciprocity. If you don’t get feedback, you stop giving feedback.

Nobody is at fault here. It’s just the way the brain is wired.


When I point this out to parents, they are surprised.


It’s a matter of awareness.

Become aware.

Next time you’re with your adult child, deliberately slow down and connect visually.


You’ll feel deep joy and you’ll jumpstart the cycle of deep, meaningful connection.


“By holding the highest vision for your child when they can not see it for themselves, you are lifting them up, elevating them and helping them to soar,”


– Megan Koufos


  1. Behaviors are a cry for deeper investigation


When hyperactivity or aggression abound, it’s normally a sign to dig deeper.


Don’t try to control the symptoms.

Instead, try to figure out what these symptoms are trying to convey.


You’ll have to dig a little to decipher better.


At a basic level, you can fill out ABC data sheets or a pattern analysis data sheets.


Feel free to email us at saiconnections01@gmail.com, if you would like a copy of the forms we use.


Once you fill them out for 2 weeks, I will be happy to help you dig deeper.


Do not fear people with Autism, embrace them. Do not spite people with Autism, unite them. Do not deny people with Autism, accept them for then their abilities will shine.”


– Paul Isaacs


  1. Be respectful


Every body deserves to be respected.


Respect needs to reflect in our actions and not merely words.


I strongly recommend not giving a 20 year old a puzzle meant for a 6 year old.


Don’t give them things to just to keep them occupied or to while away the time.


They may not read the conventional way, but try reading from encyclopedias.


I can almost hear you gasp!


I’m suggesting this as I’ve tried it some adults and they’ve enjoyed it thoroughly.


Added suggestion- how about reading the news for the day?

Better still, explore the news for the day together on a tablet.


Please don’t get carried away by their ‘seeming incompetence.’


There’s much more than meets the eye.


Sometimes I create an outline for Mohit.

It could read:


  1. Art
  2. Cooking
  3. Game


Mohit gets to decide what he wants to do within each of these categories.


For number 1- does he choose to paint a canvas or on paper?


For number 2- he needs to decide if he wants to fry something (fried potatoes are a favorite accompaniment to a meal) or does he want to cook a sabzi?


Even if he can’t tell me, he has to indicate what he would like to do. I’m always happy to help with words.


For number 3- would he want to play wi-fitness or would he rather play table tennis or Frisbee? His ipad games are an option too.


It’s much more than making a choice. It’s about decision making.


Mohit 1


“We are the doorway into a New World Order that is based on love and heart. We have the heart key. We only need the respect of others to learn how to serve wisely and kindly.”


– Lyrica, nonverbal, from the book Awetizm


  1. Set limits- respectfully


Once the choice is made, stick to it.


I normally set an outer limit where I don’t force the child to join in the framework, but I don’t let them leave the room either.


I will always be invitational and extend a helping hand.

Most times students join in.


Once they join in, they shine in their competence.


“When a family focuses on ability instead of disability, all things are possible…Love and acceptance is key. We need to interact with those with autism by taking an interest in their interests,”


Amanda Rae Ross


  1. Keep challenging them


Every body wants to grow. Every body wants to feel challenged.


Within the activity you’re working on, add variety, add complexity.


Add an element of uncertainty. Keep the activity fresh.

There is no reason for anybody to do exactly the same activity 10 times.


I can’t tell you how my students thrive after they’ve been challenged.

The smile of competence lights up their faces.

It even shows in the way they walk and carry themselves.


“Therapists and educators have traditionally tried to suppress or modulate a child’s special interest, or use it as a tool for behavior modification: Keep your hands still and stop flapping, and you will get to watch a Star Wars clip; complete your homework or no Harry Potter. But what if these obsessions themselves can be turned into pathways to growth? What if these intellectual cul-de-sacs can open up worlds?”


Scientific American article talking about the documentary Life, Animated





I’m privileged to work with adults on the spectrum.

I see a deep sensitivity and a different kind of intelligence in all the adults I work with.


“Let’s give people with autism more opportunities to demonstrate what they feel, what they imagine, what comes naturally to them through humor and the language of sensory experience. As we learn more about autism, let’s not forget to learn from those with autism. There are poets walking among you and they have much to teach.”


–  Chris Martin.



I am blessed and grateful for a glimpse of their true selves.

I pray to continue to learn from these magnificent individuals forever.







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