- Always ask the person how you can best assist.
- Ask/Look for:
- An identification bracelet with special health information.
- Emergency contact information to reach the person’s family.
- Essential equipment and supplies (for example: wheelchair, walker, oxygen, batteries, communication devices [head pointers, alphabet boards, speech synthesizers, etc.]). Medication.
- Mobility aids (for example, wheelchair, cane, walker or an assistance or service animal).
- Special health instructions (for example, allergies).
- Special communication information (for example, the person might say [s]he is stressed, look confused, withdraw, start rubbing their hands together).
- Conditions that people might misinterpret (for example, someone might mistake Cerebral Palsy for drunkenness).
- Try to include the person in conversations with other people; don’t talk about a person in front of that person.
- If the person does not use words to speak, look for gestures or other behaviors that communicate what that person wants to express.
- Don’t assume that people do not understand just because they don’t use words to communicate.
- Speak calmly - use direct, concrete phrases with no more than one or two steps, or write brief instructions on a pad if the person can read.
- Allow extra time for the person to respond.
- The person may repeat what you have said, repeat the same phrase over and over, talk about topics unrelated to the situation, or have an unusual or monotone voice. This is their attempt to communicate, and is not meant to irritate you or be disrespectful.
- Avoid using phrases that have more than one meaning such as "spread eagle" "knock it off" or "cut it out."
- Some people with autism don't show indications of pain - check for injuries.
- The person may not understand typical social rules, so may be dressed oddly, invade your space, prefer to be farther away from you than typical, or not make eye contact.
- The person may also look at you at an odd angle, laugh or giggle inappropriately, or not seem to take the situation seriously. Do not interpret these behaviors as deceit or disrespect.
- Because of the lack of social understanding, person with autism spectrum disorders may display behaviors that are misinterpreted as evidence of drug abuse or psychosis, defiance or belligerence. Don't assume!
- Approach the person in a calm manner. Try not to appear threatening.
Sensory and Behavior Tips
- If possible, turn off sirens, lights, and remove canine partners. Attempt to find a quiet location for the person, especially if you need to talk with them.
- Avoid touching the person, and if necessary, gesture or slowly guide the person. If the person is showing obsessive or repetitive behaviors, or is fixated on a topic or object, try to avoid stopping these behaviors or taking the object away from them, unless there is risk to self or others.
- Make sure that the person is away from potential hazards or dangers (busy streets, etc.) since they may not have a fear of danger.