How To Talk To Your Kids: Refraining From Confusing Colloquialisms






In an article for Psychology Today, Dr. Ian Stuart-Hamilton explains linguistic interpretation as affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder, noting that the combination of calculative characteristics and language barriers that define autistic persons to varying degrees makes for an awkward understanding of common phrases. Dr. Stuart-Hamilton tells an anecdote of a woman with high-functioning autism doing so well in her accounting position that her boss complemented her with an English phrase saying the woman was so good she could, “wrap her up in a cotton wool and take her home.” Subsequently the accountant with ASD locked herself in her office for fear of her manager wanting to kidnap her, staying there until firemen gained entry to the office and explained the whole mix-up. This is extreme, perhaps, but this colloquial confusion is common and can cause a great deal of emotional stress for persons with ASD. Dr. Stuart-Hamilton asserts that in addition to the characteristics of ASD itself, autistic persons have trouble comprehending colloquialisms because their literal understanding disables them from learning such contradicting, confusing phrases in context and these phrases are rarely taught formally. Avoiding conflict-causing phrases altogether may be a long-term disservice for ASD persons, who will likely encounter confusing phrases in various contexts as adults. Dr. Stuart-Hamilton suggests that parents and teachers stick to literal phrasing when providing instruction, but speak freely in casual conversation, introducing ASD persons to problem phrases and taking the time to explain why the common understanding and literal meaning are different. At Shema Kolainu we are always thinking of our kids’ futures. We are dedicated to preparing our students for inclusion in all activities.


To read Dr. Stuart-Hamilton’s article, visit:


Stuart-Hamilton, Ian, PhD. “People with Autism Spectrum Disorder Take Things Literally.” Psychology Today. N.p., 7 Apr. 2013. Web. 7 Apr. 2013. <>.