Autism & Social Issues: Impairments in Communication and Social Interaction

One of the central issues for someone with autism is that they struggle when it comes to communication and social interaction.

Things that for neuro-typical people come easily are very hard for those on the autism spectrum.

For instance, a job interview involves talking face-to-face with a potential employer. There might be some chit chat or pleasantries that are said before the interview starts. Then, you must “read the room” to get a feel for how the interview is going.

Talk about stressful!

And that doesn’t include getting to the interview location, checking in, and other social interactions that need to take place.

Knowing the common issues related to communication and social interaction can help you prepare and navigate these situations successfully. Consider using some of the following concerns.

Eye Contact

One of the traits associated with autism is a dislike for eye contact. In the western world, eye contact is considered a very important trait when it comes to communication and social interaction. It’s a way of knowing that the person to whom you are speaking is engaged, participating in the conversation, and listening to you.

Yet, for those with autism, eye contact is very hard to maintain. Research is discovering that the reason might be a neurotransmitter imbalance that causes people with autism to experience distress when looking someone in the eye or viewing their face. However, to someone who doesn’t realize this, this behavior seems off-putting or even rude.

Body Language

Another important skill related to social interaction and communication is body language. All humans display body language. Gesturing with your hands is one example. Also, how you position your body in relation to another person.

Knowing how to interpret body language is critical for understanding the true meaning that someone is trying to convey. For example, a person can say “I’m okay.” Yet, if they have a stooped posture, a sad expression, and are looking down or away into the distance, those signs could indicate something totally different.

It’s not that people with autism are not caring. Rather, they don’t have the ability to read this hidden language that comes intuitively to neuro-typical people.

Physical Touch

People with autism also struggle when it comes to being touched. Receiving a hug can be particularly distressful. What would happen if a person with autism was hugged unexpectedly? That could be a very stressful experience for that person.

This might be because individuals with autism have lower levels of response in certain areas of the brain that allow neuro-typical people to perceive others in their surroundings. In fact, research has found that there is a connection between one’s ability to process touch with social capacity. What this means for those with autism is that they do not necessarily have the ability to link social touch with positivity.

Having “No Filter”

If you’ve ever talked to someone with autism, then you know that they don’t have a “filter.” They will say what comes to mind, and they don’t hold back. Their intent isn’t to be mean or hurtful. Rather, they simply don’t realize that there is a social consequence to what they are saying.

It’s interesting because neuro-typical people will know how to “put on appearances” or to tell white lies so as not to appear rude. But people with autism don’t have that skill.

Preferring to Be Alone

It’s no wonder that people with autism typically prefer to be alone. There’s less stress involved, and it’s easier to have control over one’s environment.

Again, this can come off as being antisocial, especially for adults. It can also create problems when it comes to finding and maintaining a job. The workplace is fraught with unwritten social rules that an autistic person can find confusing or not even recognize at all.

Autism does make it difficult for people with the disorder to navigate a world that’s fundamentally not designed for them. If you or someone you know is struggling with these situations, consider utilizing individual therapy specifically designed to help those with autism. Feel free to contact us to find out more.

AuthorJoshua Howell, MS, LPC, NCC, AADC, ICAADC, SAP, SAE

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