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What to Say: Answers for Teens With Autism

Talking to others is one way to make friends and keep the friends you already have. But talking is not just about knowing what to say. It's also important to give clues about how you're feeling — such as smiling when you're happy.

Have you ever wanted to hang out with someone, but didn't know how to ask? Knowing what to say comes naturally for some people, but others need some help. Here's advice for teens who want to learn how to get along with people.

How Do I Introduce Myself?

Introductions don't have to be a big deal. Say "Hi" and make sure you use your name! You might also want to also say "Nice to meet you," and shake hands the first time you meet someone.

The key is to smile, look the person in the eye, and be interested in what the other person has to say. When you do these things, it help others know that you are friendly and interested in talking.

Here are some more ways to start a conversation:

  • In the hall or when you enter the classroom, you can say, "Hi, what's up?"
  • In the cafeteria, act friendly and say "Hi, mind if I join you?" or just say hello and join the group.
  • Offer to share something, or give a compliment like, "I like your book bag."
  • Invite someone to join you by saying, "Do you want to sit here?" in class or at a group activity

If it helps, practice what you might say with your mom, dad, or other trusted adult. This way, you'll know what to say the next time you want to talk to someone.

How Do I Keep the Conversation Going?

Just as you like to talk about your favorite things, so do other people. So when you're together, ask another person questions like: "What do you do for fun?" or "What's your favorite show?" Asking questions show that you're interested in your friend.

Now keep the conversation going. When the person answers you (such as, "I like to play with my dog"), comment on it. Say something back, like "I have a dog, too!" or "What's your dog's name?" You might even nod your head and repeat back what the other person is saying, such as "Oh, your dog's name is Spot." This lets other people know that you've been listening and understand what they said. Taking turns talking back-and-forth like this is what makes a conversation.

When Should I End a Conversation?

When you're talking to someone, it's important to know when to end the conversation or say goodbye. A person is ready to talk about something else or end the conversation when he or she is:

  • no longer making eye contact with you
  • looking past you or around the room
  • checking the phone or doing something else
  • changing the subject

If you're texting with a friend or talking online, it's a little harder to tell when someone wants to end the conversation. In this case, a good rule of thumb to stop texting or typing if you get no response after the last two things you said.

Sometimes a person will make it easy for you and say, "I have to go. Bye." If you need to end the conversation, you can say, "I have to go," "It's been nice talking," or "It was nice to meet you" if you just met.

What Else Should I Know?

When you're talking, it's important to know what not to do, as much as what to do. To make others feel comfortable:

  • Talk about different things. Don't spend too much time talking about one thing or the other person might get bored.
  • Choose things to talk about that you both like. There's nothing worse than listening to someone talk about how airplanes are made when you're not interested in airplanes.
  • Let the other person speak. Make sure you give the other person a chance to talk.
  • Don't get too close. Give the person you're talking to plenty of space. So, stand at least one arm's length away.

Reviewed by: Catherine Flaherty, PhD;Tetsuo Ted Sato, PhD
Date Reviewed: 12-12-2017

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