How do you use connotations in your communications? To give you a sense of the autistic world vs the neurotypical world, let’s look at a fictitious text, without emoticons or punctuation: “where were you last night”. If I just read the words, I would answer where I had been; the autistic answer. But in our complicated NT world of emotion, I have to consider who is asking, what had happened in the past between us, and the possible connotation(s) behind the question.
Let’s say the person texting was my band leader. The question could be expressing genuine concern over my well-being. It could also be surrounded by annoyance and disgust that I missed a rehearsal. Perhaps there are sarcastic undertones, hinting at being let go. I could go on and on with the emotional possibilities behind the text.
When communicating with autistic people, we must remember that they are only getting the words of the text. To communicate better, we have to say our connotation as well as the words. Our new text would be, “I am really disappointed that you weren’t there last night. What happened to you and why did you miss?”; “I am really angry that you missed rehearsal without telling us. We are considering finding another person. Where were you last night?”; or “We were really worried that you missed last night. We didn’t know what happened to you. Where were you?” These sentences are tedious, but that is what is necessary to avoid confusion with your Autie. In my experience teaching NTs and Auties, I use many, MANY more words with the Auties. Emotions are a much more efficient way to teach, but only if they can be received.