'Anything but the phone!': Communication mode preferences in the autism community

Autism. 2021 Nov;25(8):2265-2278. doi: 10.1177/13623613211014995. Epub 2021 Jun 25.


What is already known about the topic?There has been a lot of research into things like how autistic people's communication styles are different to those of non-autistic people, especially among children. This has tended to focus on parent reports and experiments, rather than asking autistic people about their own experiences and preferences regarding communication.What does this article add?This article is the first to ask autistic adults how they prefer to communicate in different scenarios. We asked whether they preferred to use a range of methods, such email, phone calls, letters and live messaging, in scenarios from education to customer services to friends and family. When contacting unknown people or organisations, we found that generally email was preferred, and phone calls were very unpopular. However, for friends, family and people they felt comfortable with, they preferred both face-to-face and written forms of communication (e.g. email and text message).Implications for practice, research or policyThe findings suggest that services should move away from a reliance on phone calls for communication. They should make sure that access to support is not dependent on the phone, and instead offer written options such as email and live messaging which are more accessible. Future research should investigate the impact of COVID-19 on autistic people's communication preferences, as video calling has become much more commonly used and potentially combines benefits and challenges of other modes discussed in this article.

Keywords: adults; autism spectrum disorders; communication and language; technology.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder*
  • Autistic Disorder*
  • COVID-19*
  • Child
  • Communication
  • Humans
  • SARS-CoV-2