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Conversations 101 for People with Asperger's

written by: Debbie Roome • edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom • updated: 4/27/2011

People with Asperger’s syndrome have problems with social skills and these include the ability to hold a two way conversation. Read on for tips and advice on how they can improve conversation skills.

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    Tips for Improving Asperger’s Conversation Skills

    People with Asperger’s often want to interact and be friendly but go about it in the wrong way. For social conversation practice, Asperger's sufferers can try the following:

    • Introduce a varied tone and inflection into your voice. A speech therapist can help with this and so can singing. Listen to how other people speak and copy their rhythm and style.
    • Give the other person a chance to talk. Launching a monologue is not the way to build a friendship or engage in a casual conversation.
    • Acknowledge what the other person is saying and make reference to it to show interest.
    • If you do not understand what the other person means, ask them to clarify what they have just said. This is preferable to changing the topic of conversation.
    • Don’t interrupt when someone is speaking. Wait for them to finish speaking.
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    Suggested Conversation Starters for Asperger’s People

    While conversation is intuitive for most people, it is a learned skill for those with Asperger’s syndrome. With practice and perseverance, many of them can learn to hold a meaningful conversation with those around them. Here are some suggested ways of starting a conversation:

    • Mention a recent event that has been in the news and ask the person what they thought about it.
    • Discussing the weather is always a suitable way to start a conversation.
    • Ask the person a question about their plans for the day, whether they are busy or if they have anything special on this week.
    • If you know they have an interest in a certain type of music or books, ask them if they heard or read anything good recently.
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    Asperger’s and Body Language in Conversation

    Poor social skills include the inability of Asperger’s syndrome people to read body language. Many say they do not understand facial expression or the signs that a person is bored or needs to move on to do something else. It is possible for them to learn the signs as an academic exercise and this will give them greater confidence when interacting with other people. The types of body language to look at are as follows:

    • Eye contact is important in conversation. Even if you cannot maintain it, make an effect to look into the other person’s eyes from time to time. This shows connection and interest.
    • Don’t stand too close or too far from a person. Watch others to see what is an acceptable distance.
    • Crossed arms can look defensive. Rather use hands and arms to express what you are saying.

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    Conversation Practice Suggestions

    Conversation skills are not intuitive to those with Asperger’s, so it is important that they learn how to interact and then practice this knowledge until it becomes part of their behavior patterns. Here are some ways to work on conversation skills:

    • Watch movies of people having a conversation and imitate the way they stand and the tone of voice they use.
    • Speech therapists can help Asperger’s people to speak in a more natural tone of voice and use language that is appropriate to casual conversation.
    • During social conversation practice, Asperger’s people can stand in front of a mirror and watch their body language and work on looking more relaxed and friendly.

    Conversation skills are generally weak in people with Asperger’s syndrome but there are a number of ways they can improve on them. Family and friends who understand the condition can also help by coaching the person in the appropriate ways to speak and stand.

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    References

    The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome by Tony Attwood, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2007

    http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/asperger/detail_asperger.htm 25th April 2011

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