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Neurodiversity Series Part 5 - Neurodiversity-Affirming Social Communication

Read Part 1- Introduction here

Read Part 2 - Double Empathy Problem here

Read Part 3 - All you need to know about ABA here

Read Part 4 - Why we don't use Social Thinking or run 'What's the Buzz' programs? here

Understanding autism


Terms such as "rigid thinking", and "difficult with transitions" are frequently used to describe autistic individuals. Knowing what Monotropism is would help us understand how an autistic mind works.

Monotropism refers to the way autistic people’s brains allocate their attention. This includes a focused interest, ‘focus tunnel’, or ‘flow-state’ that autistic people commonly experience. Autistic people experience attention very differently from non-autistic people, and many people assume that while in a ‘flow state’, an autistic person is deliberately disengaging, not listening, or not paying attention on purpose. For autistic people, it is not as easy to transition between states of attention (i.e., from one task to another). It can be difficult and will require additional time to re-focus on something else that requires attention. Pulling an autistic person out of their ‘flow state’ too quickly, can also cause sensory and emotional dysregulation, and can even trigger meltdowns.

An autistic's monotropic focus might contribute to him presenting as someone who might be described as a “conversation hogger” or him missing neurotypical social cues that other people display. As a result, he may miss neurotypical social nuances, body language cues, tone cues and may not understand the unspoken rules of neurotypical social communication and social rules that his neurotypical peers may instinctively understand.

Info-dumping (monologuing)

Info-dumping is when an individual exhausts all the information about a focused topic that they know of. Due to an autistic's high interest about the topic at hand, he is focused on the topic itself and enters his “flow state” as mentioned above. This means that a conversation with an autistic will look different compared to neurotypicals as the turns each conversational partner takes are much longer than what the neurotypical society deems as “normal” or “acceptable”. This however does not mean that the conversation and interaction he has with others will not be meaningful or genuine.

How WE can support neurodivergent individuals

We should not be focused on extinguishing an autistic individual's monotropism, their monologuing (info-dumping) or their authentic style of communication. 

The Nurture team focuses on supporting neurodivergent individuals by implementing neurodiversity-affirming therapy models and aims to stop the cycle of shame and trauma by: -

  • Working on helping neurodivergents understand, validate and accept their unique autistic communication style to increase their confidence in their abilities to socially communicate.

  • Working on perspective taking

  • Increasing their knowledge and understanding on neurotypical communication styles and "social rules" and how it differs from their own without pathologizing them.

  • Educate their support circle around autistic communication styles - our end goal is acceptance rather than conformance.

  • Promoting social inclusion by advocating and educating people about autistic and neurodivergent individuals, social differences and acceptance of these differences as a form of diversity.

  • Advocate for accessibility and for the implementation of any accomodations, modifications or support needed for the autistic individual to thrive (e.g. recommending AAC as a supplement to verbal communication for autistic individuals who struggle with spoken language when they are in meltdown or sensory overload)

  • Developing their self-advocacy and problem-solving skills

  • Promoting self-determined autonomy

Neurodiversity-Affirming social communication resources

If you are interested in checking out neurodiversity-affirming resources you can use to support autistic individuals, the Nurture team recommends the following:

  • Konnect Series - AUsome

This is a series of 3 books designed to support children discover and learn about their own communication style in a positive and empowering way. They will also explore the differences betwwen autistics' and neurotypicals' communication styles.

Find out more here.

  • SEA Bridge Program - Bridges Learning System

The SEA Bridge program is an online curriculum that goes through the following topics: - authentic social connection, communication, embodied emotions, supportive friends and allies, and self-advocacy.

Subscription to the program will grant you access to unlimited use of their workshops, games, puppet shows, and many other fun and engaging activities. It also includes caregiver resources to support continued learning from home.

Take a look at their free demo-program to determine if this is the right fit for you and the individuals you work with!

Lean more about SEA Bridges program here.

Explore the demo here.

Speech Pathologists Adelaide

Speech Pathologists at Nurture Speech Pathology are passionate about learning directly from autistic individuals themselves to educate us on how we can better understand and support them in an empathetic and respectful way. We hope that you join us in our journey to learn more about how to be neurodiversity-affirming and to spark a change in the way we interact and support neurodivergent individuals.

Speech Pathologists Near Me

Looking for neurodiversity affirming Speech Pathologists in Adelaide? Contact us at (08) 8102 4209 or to discuss whether we are a right fit for you and your child.

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