Texting Etiquette For Individuals With Autism

“Hey Ethan! I’m having an issue. I’m 19 and have Autism. I have many difficulties when it comes to texting people. It’s hard to read what they’re exactly saying and I don’t like it when people take a long time to respond, even if I know they have read it. Do you like texting? What do you find difficult about texting? Do you ever get anxious?” - Andrew

Hey Andrew, thank you for your email! I can completely relate to your problem because I have difficulties texting all of the time. I know that having issues with texting is not something that only neurodiverse individuals experience. While neurotypical individuals go through some of the same types of texting issues, I believe that Autism can certainly play a factor in increasing the prevalence and severity of these issues.

I have a hard time understanding what people are saying in texts. Not literally, as in I cannot comprehend the actual words, but I cannot always understand the social context that comes with it. Because I have trouble understanding sarcasm, when people text me, I have no way to tell if someone is being sarcastic or not! Even emojis can be hard to read! I’ve learned to clarify via text to make sure that I am accurately understanding what the other person is trying to say. People who know me really well also have learned to just not be sarcastic via text because there’s no way that I will understand it.

In addition, there is the aspect of people not responding to texts. This is one factor that I have a lot of trouble with. If someone doesn’t respond to a text within a few hours, I occasionally think to myself if I have done anything wrong. It’s a little bit weird for me because in reality I know that there are many logical reasons why people might not be able to text, but nevertheless I still worry. I think I am definitely getting better at this though.

I get upset and annoyed when someone says that they will text me, but then they don’t. For instance, “I’ll text you back in 10 minutes” or “I’ll text you later.” I am totally fine when these phrases are texted, but get bothered when they’re not accurate. I get annoyed when “10 minutes” turns into me sending the “???” text after 30 minutes and when “I’ll respond later” or “later tonight” turning into a nonexistent text.

I understand there are things that get in the way of life. I survive off of structure and am disappointed when people give one timeline and then do another (or not at all). I’m starting to realize more and more that when neurotypical individuals say “I’ll text you when I get home,” it may mean “I’ll text you later tonight.” I constantly try to work on my flexibility… slowly but surely it’s coming along.

With all of this in mind, Andrew, there are certainly aspects of texting that is much harder for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Nonetheless, many others experience the same types of frustration. What I have found to be the most helpful is to (no matter how tough it is) come straight out and explain your feelings! If you don’t like it when people take a long time to respond, ask. If it’s hard to read what someone is trying to say, clarify.

Thank you Andrew for sending in this question. I really hoped this helped! If anyone else has questions they would like answered (either publicly or anonymously), please don’t hesitate to contact me. I’m always available! Also, I’d like to take a moment and thank all of you who generously donated to my blog within the past two weeks. These funds will be able to cover five or six months of blogging costs. I am so grateful. If you missed my previous post, you can read it by clicking here! Thank you all again and have a happy holiday season.

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