Coping: A Survival Guide for People with Asperger Syndrome
- Body language doesn't just include gestures, it also includes
facial expressions, eye contact and tone of voice and is sometimes
affected by what you are wearing.
- Some people may have body language down to a fine art but many
people find it difficult.
- Many people constantly feel paranoid about their own body
language, including those who are extremely good at it.
- Showing the wrong emotion or laughing at the wrong time can be
embarrassing. You may do this if you're thinking about one thing
and the people around you are talking about something else. If
someone reacts to this, tell them that your mind was elsewhere.
- If someone talks to you about something they find emotional
and you don't respond to their body language with your own, they
might think you are lacking empathy or that you don't really care.
- If someone tells you that you do not give enough body language
you might have to exaggerate it in order to emphasise what you say
but not too much. This will at first feel artificial.
- Part of body language includes courtesy things like 'excuse
me', 'please', 'thanks', 'cheers', 'see ya' and being the first to
say 'hi'. It is often an effort to say these things but then
perhaps courtesy is supposed to be an effort. I have given
informal courtesies here (not over-polite) but the politeness of
the courtesies you choose may have to depend on the people you are
- We all have to be careful about standing behind someone when
they can't see us because if they turn round they might get a
fright. This is especially important if you are large or tall. In
a densely crowded bus or train however you might not be able to
- It can often be an effort to have a shower or a bath three
times a week and to wear deodorant but it is much easier to talk
to people if you feel you are clean and if you cannot be smelt.
Remember, if you smell you might not be aware of it.
- If you are too good at body language or you look too cool,
people are less likely to make exceptions for you if you do
something wrong without knowing it.
- If you are an adult and especially if you are a large one, it
is better to avoid running in the street unless the street is
practically empty. Running for a bus or a train is all right if it
will save you having to wait for another half an hour or you are
in a hurry to get somewhere. On the other hand if you are going
for a jog then wear shorts or track suit trousers so that people
can see you are running for the purpose of getting exercise and
hopefully don't feel intimidated.
- When you see someone in the street who you know it can
sometimes be awkward but to exchange glances, smile slightly and
raise eyebrows to each other is usually enough.
- Boundaries are all about not getting too close to someone yet
not being too far away.
- The correct boundaries will depend on the person you are
talking to and also the time and place.
- If there is a physical attraction between you and someone else
you will need give off AND read the correct signals. To do this
the simplest rule to work by is that open gestures (such as open
hands or arms) and gestures turned towards someone tend to mean
attraction, whereas closed gestures (hands in fists, arms across
chest) and gestures which are turned away from someone tend to
- There is something to be aware of called the
approach-avoidance trap. Quite often we need to be decisive about
whether we are going to approach someone, walk away or do neither.
- Also there is the problem of recognising other people's
territory. If in some one-off situation you unknowingly encroach
on what someone else considers to be their territory this can
sometimes get you into big trouble. For example, at one time I
lent a listening ear to a woman living in a house full of
children. She was distraught because her over-possessive and
just-out-of-prison boyfriend had just stormed out for no
particular reason. I didn't realise that from his point of view it
was his territory. Fortunately my personal safety was spared
because he didn't come back until the next day. If after you make
this kind of mistake you later have it explained to you it can all
start to look so obvious.
- Eye contact is hard to get right because it is hard to tell
whether you are giving someone too much eye contact or too little
when they are talking to you.
- While people are not talking and when you are not talking to
them, it is often best not to look at them. This is because people
can usually see that you are looking at them out of the corner of
their eyes and this may make them feel uncomfortable, in which
case they might talk about you behind your back. To control your
gaze might be difficult for you but it is by no means impossible.
- If you point at someone when you are talking about them to
someone else, this may seem rude if they notice. If you are
arguing with someone and point at them while giving eye contact,
this may come across as quite aggressive. Try not to point at
people - it will help you stay out of trouble.
- When you are talking to someone or they are talking to you,
you are expected to look at them bearing in mind the following
- To look at someone for less than one third of the time may
be communicating that either you are shy (if you keep looking
down) or you are dishonest (if you keep looking to the side).
- To look at someone for more than two thirds of the time may
be communicating that either you like them (if you are looking
at the face as a whole) or you are aggressive (if you are
looking straight into their eyes)
- To look at someone for the whole time giving steady and
unbroken eye contact can mean one of two things. Either you are
challenging them (the aggressive gaze) or you fancy them (the
intimate gaze). However in other cultures (e.g. Mediterranean
Europe) it can also symbolise companionship. For someone with
autism it can be very difficult because first we have to be
sure that it IS appropriate. Also fixed eye contact can
forcefully distract us when we try to talk.
Tone of voice
- You might be one of these people who almost talks in a single
tone without knowing it.
- Ask a trustworthy person if this is true and if it is you may
have to exaggerate the intonation in your voice to emphasise what
you say, but not too much. This will sound artificial at first.
- If you are reading a story-book to a child then the more
intonation the better.
- The intonation in our voices is extremely important in
determining whether we are being enthusiastic or sarcastic about
something. It is also important in telling whether we mean
something seriously or just as a joke.
- To talk in a single tone can make it sound as if you're
depressed. When talking about something good or exciting you have
to make yourself sound excited too, otherwise people tend to think
it sounds strange.
- If you are a young man whose voice is breaking, then if you
find it more comfortable just let it break for good. It may sound
strange at first on the inside but it will be sounding much more
natural on the outside. If you are worried about what your friends
might think which should only be a short term problem anyway, it
may be useful to take the opportunity of letting your voice break
while you are changing schools.
- Finally, remember not to speak too loudly and not to speak too
quietly. This should depend on the distance between you and the
other person and the voice should be quieter when a bit of secrecy
is needed. Whisper when everyone else is whispering (or when there
is someone asleep nearby).
- At times when you may need to talk extra loudly and clearly
(e.g. on stage or in a play) then you may want to project
your voice. To do this keep a nice straight relaxed
posture and imagine that your voice is coming from your stomach,
however strange this may seem.
- What clothes you wear gives off a message about you.
- If you wear bright clashing coloured clothes, perhaps
intending to look confident, many people are likely to lose
interest in you.
- If you wear cowboy boots, ripped jeans, heavy metal tee shirts
and a studded leather jacket people might either be too scared to
come near you or will expect to be able to talk to you about heavy
metal music systems, life on the streets and various different
night clubs. It is a a very difficult image to pull off.
- If you dress in natural colours such as blue, grey,
dark-green, black or white which people cannot laugh at but still
look trendy people will judge you on how you come across rather
than what you are wearing which is likely to be what you need.
- It is often a good idea to hear someone else's opinion about
what you should wear (talk to someone who you can trust).
Coping: A Survival Guide for People with Asperger
Getting the best from this
Looking on the bright side
Distortions of the truth
Humour and conflict
Sexually related problems and points about
Finding the right friends
Keeping a clean slate
Living away from home
Jobs and interviews
A Personal in depth analysis of the